In a regulatory campaign that has alarmed the crypto world, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now considers more than 50 cryptocurrencies, worth a total of US$100 billion, to be securities, reports Reuters. Included among them are a number of coins used on Binance and Coinbase, which gained the new classification after SEC’s high profile lawsuits against the two crypto exchanges.
To determine whether a cryptocurrency is a security or not, the SEC applies the Howey Test, a legal test with roots in a 1946 court case. Under this framework, an asset is considered a security as long as it involves an investment of money into a common enterprise with the expectation of profit from the effort of others. Business Insider takes a comprehensive look into the Howey test here.
Securities are subjected to more regulatory scrutiny and are expected to follow strict investor protection requirements. Coinbase and Binance were both charged by the SEC for operating as unregistered securities exchanges, brokers, and clearing agencies, as detailed in press releases here and here. Crypto enthusiasts are against using the Howey test on cryptocurrencies, pointing out that it was created during a time when cryptocurrencies didn’t exist. The Washington Post details the debate, the impact of the crackdown, and why classification matters so much in this piece.