I - Background
The strong rise in cryptocurrencies in 2017 attracted a large number of new investors, many willing to do anything to make big profits. It also attracted a number of dubious players who were claiming high rates of return, in order to attract gullible victims. Some members of the community had spoken against these excesses that were distorting the sector and giving a negative image of crypto-assets. The general public, however, were generally unaware of their protests.
The announcement made by the AMF is therefore a good thing because it will have the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff in the eyes of the general public. We must hope it will eventually clean the ecosystem of the unscrupulous actors. The AMF press release states that the law of 9 December 2016 on ‘transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernization of economic life’ (the "Sapin II" law) introduces a change in the system of intermediation in miscellaneous assets.
In 2017, the AMF created a black list of intermediaries in miscellaneous assets (diamonds, wines etc.) who were not fulfilling their legal obligations. Today, it is the turn of investors in crypto-assets: from now on, companies offering investments in crypto-assets (some of which are presented as cryptocurrencies) will also appear on the blacklist if they do not fulfill their legal obligations.
Companies which make investment proposals offering financial returns or similar economic effect involve intermediation in miscellaneous assets, and are subject to control by the AMF if marketing to the French public. They must now have a registration number issued by the AMF.
II - The Blacklist:
The AMF warning refers to the following websites:
This is a list given as a warning to French investors. It cannot constitute a totally exhaustive inventory of actors who do not comply with the regulations in force.
It is interesting to note that, of the sites listed in this first blacklist, though they all have a page presenting their service in French, they are mostly based abroad: mainly in the United Kingdom, but also in Switzerland and Singapore.
The press release implies that there were two stages to establish this blacklist. First, the AMF studied a number of websites. Then, they alerted the sites that did not meet the new French legal criteria applicable to them, particularly the need to register with the AMF.
Although notified by the AMF of the new obligations, these companies continued to communicate and / or solicit the public in France through their websites without their offer being registered with the AMF. These sites were therefore included in the blacklist.
III – AMF Reminder to Stay Vigilant
Lastly, the AMF press release reminds investors to follow these safety guidelines before making any investment:
no advertising materials should make you overlook the fact that high returns always involve high risk;
learn as much as you can about the company or intermediary trying to sell you a product (authorisation/certification, company history, location of head offices, etc.);
only invest in a product you understand;
ask yourself how, and by whom, the purchase price or selling price of the advertised product is set, and find out the precise terms and timeline for selling the product, especially in cases where the product invests in an asset class with low liquidity.
We should remember also that for years, members of the community have warned that Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) is an experiment, unique and unprecedented, and that we should not invest more than we can afford to to lose.