20 July 2018

Blockchain’s Latest Twist: Digitizing Shares

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There has been plenty of news lately about the blockchain in general and Bitcoin in particular from the regulatory, law enforcement, markets and venture capital fronts. However, one piece of slightly overlooked news may turn out to have the biggest impact for advisors, especially those who serve high-net-worth clients.

First, a recap of the most reported news. On May 24, Bloomberg reported that federal regulators from the Justice Department had begun an investigation into possible price manipulation of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Bitcoin’s shares dropped steeply.

On June 6, SEC chairman Jay Clayton confirmed the Commission’s stance that cryptocurrency is not a security and thus not regulated by the SEC. But he told CNBC that when “a token, a digital asset” is sold by a company with the expectation of some return to the buyer, “that is a security and we regulate its offering and trading. That’s our job.”

Elaborating on the topic In a June 14 speech in San Francisco, William Hinman of the SEC  argued that “in cases where the digital asset represents a set of rights that gives the holder a financial interest in an enterprise,” such an asset would remain a security and thus be subject to SEC regulation. Hinman, the director of the SEC’s division of corporate finance, went on to clarify that calling the same transaction an initial coin offering (ICO) or a ‘token’ will “not take it out of the purview of the U.S. securities laws.”

Digital currency prices spiked.

On June 25, Wired.com said that the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in cryptocurrency before, is said to be closing in on a $300 million blockchain-focused fund that Wired said would invest not only in equities but in digital tokens as well. Helping to manage that fund will be a former federal prosecutor, Katie Haun. On June 26, according to CNBC, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak compared the buzz about blockchain to the internet market of 2000-2001. “It was a bubble, and I feel that way about blockchain,” Wozniak said at the NEX technology conference in New York. However, he said he’s also a believer in blockchain technology’s implementation potential, calling blockchain “totally trustworthy.”

Bitcoin continued its decline, to $6,080.

The overlooked news? Last month, a hedge fund company whose CEO is also a true believer in the potential of blockchain to revolutionize the financial services industry announced it has ‘tokenized’ the shares of the private cloud storage firm Anexio. That is, instead of issuing paper shares in a traditional IPO, it is issuing digital tokens. Since those tokens will be on the blockchain’s distributed ledger database, they can more efficiently be traded and monitored, such as assuring that only accredited investors can purchase the tokens. They also offer the promise of increased liquidity for token owners.

According to Fortune.com, the hedge fund Morgan Creek Capital is looking to raise $40 million by selling the Ethereum-based tokens to accredited investors — those with either a net worth of $1 million or $200,000 in annual income.

In Morgan Creek Capital’s first quarter newsletter, CEO Mark Yusko wrote that “some really, really, smart people are getting really, really excited about cryptocurrencies.” Morgan Creek, he said, is “excited to participate with some of the leading investors in blockchain technology in our new blockchain fund.” The hedge fund company, he wrote in the February newsletter, will be “forming a vehicle to capitalize on the opportunity in security tokens in the coming months.” Thus the deal with Anexio, whose CEO, Anthony ‘Pomp’ Pompliano, said, “We are excited to lead the charge for profitable companies, like us, to tokenize their equity and fully expect more companies to follow our lead.”

In a separate announcement, Pompliano predicted: “We’re going to tokenize the world and no one can stop us.” The former venture capital manager will be tokenizing the world as a founder and partner of Morgan Creek Digital Assets, along with Morgan Creek Capital’s Yusko.

Click here for the original article from Think Advisor.  

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