It seems that 2017 will be remembered as the year of the initial coin offering (ICO). The Cayman Islands is witnessing an upsurge in ICO-related business and structuring an ICO through the territory remains an attractive proposition. However, ICO-specific guidance is yet to be issued by the government or the regulator, and a number of legal uncertainties remain. Existing statutory and regulatory regimes must therefore be considered when structuring an ICO.
The China Banking Regulatory Commission's Circular on Matters concerning Regulating Private Lending and Maintaining Economic and Financial Order recently came into effect. The circular was formulated in accordance with various laws and measures and establishes the basis for clarifying credit rules and prohibiting illegal private lending. According to government officials, the circular will be implemented in three stages.
The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) recently issued its Interim Measures for the Equity Management of Commercial Banks. The measures have tightened the CBRC's regulation of the information disclosure and reporting requirements imposed on material shareholders that have a significant impact on the operation and management of commercial banks established in China.
The State Council recently announced a pilot programme that has lifted the requirements on foreign-invested banks entering the renminbi yuan (Rmb) business market in Beijing until May 5 2018. As a result, foreign-invested banks are no long required to have operated for more than one year before applying to conduct Rmb business in Beijing. The programme is another step towards encouraging foreign investment in the financial sector.
The People's Bank of China recently released revised measures for the registration of a pledge of accounts receivable. The revised measures have broadened the definition of 'accounts receivable' and introduced a procedure for registering to transfer accounts receivable. For flexibility and convenience, the revised measures also adjust the registration term of a pledge of accounts receivable and extend the time limit for notifying a pledgee of any objection to its registration.
The Internet Financial Risk Special Rectification Work Leading Group Office recently issued a notice on rectification work regarding tokens issuance financing. In addition, a number of national authorities issued a joint announcement on the prevention of financial risks associated with token issuance. Following issuance of the notice and the joint announcement, initial coin offerings are now an illegal and unregulated method of raising money.
The EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2) aims to enhance competition in otherwise traditional and closed industries. A draft of the new Payment System Act, transposing PSD2, was recently released for public consultation. The draft defines the information that banks must forward to third parties for each category of payment services and sets limits on forwarding more information than is expressly requested from a bank.
Unlike many other popular initial coin offering (ICO) jurisdictions, Cyprus is an EU member state and, as such, founders of ICOs must comply with the panoply of single market regulation. However, as they are largely unregulated at present, the benefits of launching an ICO in Cyprus can be significant. These include an EU base, a central time zone, access to Cyprus's vast array of tax treaties and white-list status among tax authorities globally.
In 2013 Parliament passed the Resolution of Credit and Other Institutions Law to facilitate the restoration of the viability of the Cyprus financial sector. However, this law was enacted before the implementation of the EU Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive. Parliament has now enacted the new Law for the Resolution of Credit Institutions and Investment Companies in order to align Cyprus national law fully with EU provisions.
The most pressing Brexit concern for UK-based credit and financial institutions is the terms on which they will continue to have access to the EU single market and related passporting rights if and when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Cyprus can offer a solution to international firms and institutions seeking certainty over EU single market access.
The European Commission recently published a legislative proposal amending the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive to modify creditor hierarchy in insolvency with a view to facilitating the resolution of EU credit institutions. The proposal, which was fast tracked, resulted in the adoption of EU Directive 2017/2399, which amends the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive as regards the ranking of debt instruments in insolvency.