European Finance Regulators Leave Door Open to Ban Distributed Ledger Technologies by January 2018

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In a recent speech, given by Patrick Armstrong, Senior Risk Analysis Officer, Innovation and Products Team at Blockchain Technology: The Future for Financial Services Infrastructure, in London England – it was made public that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will have the right to ban or restrict products or processes, in the light of the potential risks (restrictive approach) once MiFID II/MiFIR becomes effective on January 1, 2018.

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From the speech:

“The issue of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)  and the regulatory response is a critical topic for both regulators and market participants. The challenge is to identify when the regulator should step in. This is the regulatory ‘tipping point’ –  the point between ‘too small to care’ and ‘too large to ignore’. I want to share how ESMA approaches the challenge.”

“When confronted with a financial innovation, a regulator can roughly take one of three approaches, each of which is in its own way ‘pro-active’ rather than ‘reactive’| 

  1. Ban or restrict products or processes, in the light of the potential risks (restrictive approach).
  2. Take a “wait and see” approach (watchful approach).
  3. Actively facilitate and regulate the product or process because of its potential economic and social benefits (facilitative or catalyst approach) and/or because of known threats to our objectives.

“The first, banning, is a power that ESMA and the MSs will have once MiFID II/MiFIR becomes effective on 1 January 2018. Until then, if we believe a harmful ‘tipping point’ has been reached, we can take measures such as issuing warnings as we have done against ‘contracts for differences’ in 2013, and reinforced this past year, or the Statement we issued in 2014 on the risks to investing in Contingent Convertibles, in which we outlined that these instruments should only be purchased by sophisticated investors and are not appropriate for retail. “

He did add that the ‘wait and see’ approach is largely the approach that ESMA, like most regulators, have taken towards the DLT. 

“There is a collective need to better understand DLT and its possible applications in the financial market. Now, do not interpret this as a passive approach, but rather one in which we actively try to learn more about the innovation, but do so while it remains sufficiently immature that we are not placing our objectives, stability, protection and integrity, at risk by not taking action. At the same time, by waiting to see how the innovation develops we do not risk stifling a potentially socially or economically useful product or process. The innovation has not reached a ‘tipping point’ where active regulatory participation is needed.”

Full report is here. 

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About Richard Kastelein

Founder and publisher of industry publication Blockchain News (EST 2015), a partner at ICO services collective Token.Agency ($750m+ and 90+ ICOs and STOs), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) – Vancouver native Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of some two dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1500 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat. Irish Tech News put him in the top 10 Token Architects in Europe.

Kastelein has an Ad Honorem - Honorary Ph.D. and is Chair Professor of Blockchain at China's first Blockchain University in Nanchang at the Jiangxi Ahead Institute of Software and Technology. In 2018 he was invited to and attended University of Oxford's Saïd Business School for Business Automation 4.0 programme.  Over a half a decade experience judging and rewarding some 1000+ innovation projects as an EU expert for the European Commission's SME Instrument programme as a startup assessor and as a startup judge for the UK government's Innovate UK division.

Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London (5x), Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, Prague, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara (2x), Shanghai, Singapore (3x), Tel Aviv, Utrecht, Venice, Visakhapatnam, Zwolle and Zurich.

He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com, and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French. A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world. In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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