By Michael J. Casey (chairman of CoinDesk’s advisory board and a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. The following article originally appeared in CoinDesk Weekly):
The token industry needs to grow up.
I’m not talking about financial growth, at least not for now. With $20 billion raised in “initial coin offerings” and an overall token market valuation of $300 billion, early participants in crypto finance have done a spectacular job of “growing” their monetary value as measured by the very fiat currencies many claim are being disrupted.
But if digital tokens are to matter and if they are to enable networks of distributed trust, the industry needs to advance to adulthood.
Only with a self-regulating system, in which broadly accepted norms of behavior, modes of communication and business practices are encouraged, can the industry shake off a Wild West image of Lambo-loving scammers and move from the fringe into the mainstream.
This, by the way, is also the only way to experience true and meaningful financial growth by which opportunities are distributed beyond a small set of early adopters to a wider array of participants in the $100 trillion world economy.
As such, it is encouraging to see proactive efforts to promote best practices. The latest such effort comes from the Token Alliance, an industry initiative of the Digital Chamber of Commerce that comprises 350 global industry participants, including blockchain and token experts, technologists, economists, former regulators, and practitioners from over 20 law firms.
On Monday, the Alliance will release its first white paper, one that aims to bring two important constituencies – industry leaders and regulators – into alignment around the appropriate business and legal treatment of digital token issuances.
In particular, it seeks clarity for tokens that are not intended to be investment contracts – typically those that have a “utility” value in driving a decentralized network of users – and for that reason, deserve to be excluded from existing securities laws.
According to a foreword from Token Alliance co-chairs Jim Newsome, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Paul Atkins, a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the principles outlined in the report “are designed to help market participants understand the parameters around their activity and to act in a fair and responsible manner toward potential purchasers.”
At the same time, Newsome and Atkins add that these guidelines can help policymakers understand the technology better so as to avoid drafting draconian rules potentially creating “an environment of regulatory arbitrage, or even worse, unintentionally decrease the attractiveness of a jurisdiction regarding innovation and jobs creation.”
Read the full article here.