Are Cryptocurrencies Unregistered Securities?


Cryptocurrencies are a hot topic in the investment world. Many people are excited about the potential of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based assets to transform financial markets, but others are concerned that ICOs and other cryptocurrency activities may be violating securities law. In this article, we’ll explore whether there’s any truth to these concerns by looking at what exactly constitutes an unregistered security under federal law. We’ll also discuss how the Howey Test applies to cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

What are securities?

Securities are financial instruments that provide their holders with a financial benefit. The most common kinds of securities include stocks, bonds, and options.

  • A stock is a security that represents ownership in a company. When you buy a share of Apple’s stock, for example, you own part of the company and could receive profits if it does well—and if its shares appreciate in price (meaning they cost more than when you bought them), then those profits can be realized by selling your shares.
  • A bond is like an IOU: when you lend money to someone (say through buying municipal bonds issued by your local city), they owe you interest on that loan until they pay it back with interest at maturity (typically several years later). You get paid before the borrower does this because there’s risk involved: If something goes wrong with making payments or repaying what was borrowed before their due date arrives, then investors may lose money on those investments too! This explains why some companies offer higher rates on corporate bonds than municipal ones; there’s less risk involved here because these companies have strong credit ratings behind them so it’s likely they’ll make good on any payments owed within timeframes specified beforehand by issuing agencies such as Standard & Poor’s Rating Agency.”

What are cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that are not issued by any central bank or government. Instead, they’re created and managed by a network of computers. This decentralized system allows people to buy and sell goods without the need for an intermediary such as a bank.

Cryptocurrencies also rely on encryption techniques to verify transactions made over their networks. The most popular form of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which was invented in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto (the pseudonym used by the unknown person or persons who designed Bitcoin).

What is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)?

An initial coin offering (ICO) is a way for a cryptocurrency project to raise funds. It’s similar to an initial public offering (IPO), but with a few key differences:

  • ICOs are more flexible than IPOs
  • ICOs can be done in a shorter time frame than IPOs

They can be done in any country ICOs are a great way for cryptocurrency projects to raise funds, but they’re not without their drawbacks.

They’re unregulated, so projects can raise money without any restrictions. This means that there are no guarantees about how the funds will be spent or whether the project will succeed. And if it does fail, investors won’t get their money back.

Are cryptocurrencies securities?

The SEC has not made any official statement on cryptocurrencies. However, it has stated that Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are securities, which means they fall under the SEC’s jurisdiction. This is because ICOs involve the sale of cryptographic tokens that investors buy in exchange for fiat currency or other cryptocurrency. Since cryptocurrencies are not regulated by the SEC and have no real monetary value outside of their use on various exchanges, it’s unclear whether or not you can legally sell them as investments.

The SEC has also warned investors about the risks associated with cryptocurrencies and ICOs, including the possibility of fraud. It has not made any official statements on whether or not it considers cryptocurrencies to be securities, but it’s likely that they are.

If the SEC considers cryptocurrencies to be securities, then it’s likely that you can’t legally sell them as investments. However, there is a grey area here. The SEC has not made any official statement on whether or not cryptocurrencies are securities, but it has stated that ICOs are securities because they involve the sale of cryptographic tokens. Since cryptocurrencies have no real monetary value outside of their use on various exchanges

What is the Howey Test?

The Howey Test was first developed in 1946 and is used to determine whether an investment contract is a security. An investment contract is defined as:

  • An investment of money
  • In a common enterprise
  • With the expectation of profits predominantly from the efforts of others.

If any one of these prongs is met, then it would be considered an investment contract and therefore a security according to the Howey Test. This can be difficult because there are many factors that go into whether an asset will qualify under this test or not. For example, if you invest in bitcoin directly and hold it yourself, then you have bought units (or shares) rather than investing money directly into the company behind it (the “common enterprise”). However, if you buy bitcoins through Coinbase or another exchange then there are additional laws that apply which we’ll look at later on!

The Howey Test and ICOs.

The Howey Test is not a new thing. It was created in 1946, and it’s been around ever since. In fact, the test has actually been part of securities law for decades now—and it’s become a staple of how regulators and courts determine whether an investment is or is not a security. But if you’re not familiar with the Howey Test, don’t worry: we’ll go over all its parts below.

The Howey Test was created by the Supreme Court as part of an important legal decision called SEC v W J Howey Co (1946). This case involved salesmen selling citrus grove plots to raise money for their employer, who then used these funds to purchase land in Florida and develop citrus groves there—which they could then sell at a profit after harvesting them several years later. The question before the court was whether these agreements were considered contracts for sale or loans; either way would have resulted in different consequences for those participating in this arrangement.

Companies need to be mindful of legal consequences when developing a cryptocurrency.

It’s important to recognize that the SEC has not issued any statements regarding cryptocurrencies as securities. In fact, it is still unclear if cryptocurrencies are considered by the SEC as securities at all.

In addition, the SEC has not yet addressed ICOs (initial coin offerings). This is notable because many ICOs raise funds through a process known as “issuing tokens,” which may be interpreted as being analogous to issuing securities in an initial public offering (IPO). However, because of its lack of regulation over ICOs and digital currencies, it’s unclear how this interpretation would be applied by the agency.


The crypto community is full of ideas and innovation. But, there are also some risks to consider before you launch your own cryptocurrency. If you have an idea for a new type of token, it’s important to build in compliance from day one. That way, if your idea catches on and becomes popular (and potentially profitable), you’ll be prepared with everything necessary to ensure that the company can operate with legal efficiency while still allowing users their rights under federal law.

None of the information on this website is investment or financial advice and does not necessarily reflect the views of CryptoMode or the author. CryptoMode is not responsible for any financial losses sustained by acting on information provided on this website by its authors or clients. Always conduct your research before making financial commitments, especially with third-party reviews, presales, and other opportunities.

JP Buntinx

JP Buntinx has been writing about cryptocurrency since 2012. His interest in crypto, blockchain, fintech, and finance allows him to cover a broad range of different topics.

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JP Buntinx

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