The Merkle

Why Can’t US Citizens Participate in Cryptocurrency ICOs?

Given the recent popularity of cryptocurrency ICOs, it was to be expected some things would be unclear to a lot of people. One of the most recurring questions is why all of these ICOs try to prevent US citizens from participating. There are many different reasons as to why this is the case, even though the countermeasures can be bypassed quite easily.

ICOs and US Citizens Don’t Mix Well

Anyone who has recently participated in a cryptocurrency ICO or pre-ICO may have noticed how these offerings are, in theory not available to residents in the US. Some projects even go as far as trying to dissuade residents from Singapore to participate as well. It is evident these two regions do not take kindly to cryptocurrency ICOs, mainly due to regulatory reasons.

To put this into perspective, the United States is quite strict when it comes to investment regulations. Only accredited investors can partake in private placements of securities. While some people would urge all cryptocurrency ICOs are tokens and not securities, regulators will have a very different opinion regarding this matter. A  lot of the ICOs we have seen can be labeled as traditional sales of equity.

As is to be expected, the team organizing a cryptocurrency ICO cannot guarantee only accredited US investors will partake. They can take the necessary steps to prevent most US citizens from investing, although these measures can be bypassed. Right now, the ICOs tend to ask if you are a US citizen, but there is no verification of whether or not one speaks the truth. Some projects use geolocation to block US citizens, but those can be bypassed with a proxy or VPN. It is impossible to prevent US citizens from participating, but these measures have to be taken regardless.

Some of the bigger cryptocurrency ICOs will ensure they hire lawyers who can create a more “workable” environment for interested parties. If they would not take these steps, their entire token sale would be liable to criminal charges in the US. That is, assuming the SEC would ever decide to investigate a particular crowdsale for those specific reasons. It is highly unlikely that will happen, even though the SEC is looking to regulate ICOs moving forward.

Once the SEC will effectively intervene in cryptocurrency ICOs – which is only a matter of time – things will get very interesting, to say the least. A lot of previous ICOs didn’t take the necessary steps to “deny” US citizens from investing. All of those projects and their teams are at the mercy of the SEC for the time being. Violating US securities laws is not something anyone wants to deal with. Additionally, these laws can also be enforced upon non-US companies, which makes it even more important to take countermeasures.

It is evident this unregulated space will be of keen interest to financial watchdogs all over the world in the coming years. The bigger question is how many companies will get burnt for not doing their due diligence. It is bad enough to know most of these projects may ultimately fail. Worrying about future criminal charges will certainly have a big impact on all of these crowdsales moving forward.

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