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The ASC and CSA have issued various guidance on the application of securities legislation to crypto assets, including the following:
August 24, 2017
Overview of the application of securities laws to crypto asset offerings and other circumstances.
Guidance on when a token offering would constitute an investment contract and therefore a security.
Consultation paper seeking feedback on the proposed regulatory framework for crypto asset trading platforms.
Guidance on how securities legislation may apply to crypto asset trading platforms even where the crypto asset is not itself a security or derivative but the platform offers a custodial solution with clients having a right to delivery.
Guidance on disclosure expectations of publicly traded issuers dealing in crypto assets.
Guidance on the application of dealer registration and marketplace requirements to crypto asset trading platforms.
Alberta securities laws will apply to crypto assets in many cases, but not all.
Crypto-assets are sometimes referred to by names such as “utility token", “payment token”, “virtual asset”, “digital currency” or “stablecoin”. The name given to the crypto asset does not determine whether or not it is subject to Alberta securities laws.
Generally, Alberta securities laws will apply to a crypto-asset if any of the following circumstances apply:
In addition, even if the crypto asset is not a security or a derivative, Alberta securities law will apply if the crypto-asset is traded in a manner that creates a derivative or a security, for example, by a platform that holds custody of the crypto-asset such that the client only has a contractual right or claim to the underlying crypto asset. See CSA Staff Notice 21-327 Guidance on the application of Securities Legislation to Entities Facilitating the Trading of Crypto Assts.
CSA Staff Notice 46-307 Cryptocurrency Offerings provides guidance on some of the many ways Alberta securities law can apply to crypto-assets.
If a crypto asset is a security, the distribution or offering of that security for sale triggers the prospectus requirement. The crypto asset can then be sold either with a prospectus or relying on one of the available prospectus exemptions or discretionary exemptive relief.
Although securities sold under a prospectus are generally freely tradeable in a secondary market, resale restrictions apply to securities sold under prospectus exemptions. So unless discretionary exemptive relief is sought and obtained, crypto assets sold under prospectus exemptions would not be available for secondary trading.
Dealer registration requirement
Alberta securities laws require that persons or companies that are “in the business” of trading securities or derivatives be registered as dealers. Online platforms that offer for sale crypto assets that are securities or derivatives or facilitate the trading of securities or derivatives would generally be required to register as a dealer and, in some circumstances, would be subject to the requirements applicable to marketplaces.
Even if a particular crypto asset is not itself a security or a derivative, in some circumstances a security or derivative may be created and require the platform to comply with securities law requirements e.g., those applicable to dealers and marketplaces. This will typically be the case where a platform holds custody of the crypto-asset on behalf of a client and does not immediately deliver it to the client such that the client only has a contractual right or claim to the underlying crypto asset. See CSA Staff Notice 21-327 Guidance on the Application of Securities Legislation to Entities Facilitating the Trading of Crypto Assets for further details.
Crypto asset trading platforms
On March 29, 2021, the CSA and IIROC published CSA/IIROC Staff Notice 21-329 Guidance for Crypto Asset Trading Platforms: Compliance with Regulatory Requirements outlining how existing provisions of securities legislation and IIROC rules apply and might be adapted to crypto asset trading platforms.
On March 11, 2021 the published Staff Notice 51-363 Observations on Disclosure by Crypto Assets Reporting Issuers providing guidance on disclosure expectations of reporting issuers dealing in crypto assets.
Fraud and market manipulation
In addition, the fraud and market manipulation prohibitions of Alberta securities law may be engaged in respect of a crypto asset that is the underlying to a derivative.
Although a number of crypto asset trading platforms have applied or are in the process of applying to be registered under securities legislation, at present, most crypto asset trading platforms are not registered.
Many crypto asset trading platforms are required to be registered. See “When do Alberta securities laws apply to crypto assets?” However, not all crypto asset trading platforms will be required to be registered.
Registered crypto asset trading platforms
You can check the National Registration Search to see whether a person or company is registered.
If a crypto asset trading platform is not registered there is no assurance that some of the typical protections that may exist when using a registered dealer are present. For example, with respect to
You should determine whether the crypto-assets involved would be considered to be a security or a derivative under Canadian securities laws and the laws of any foreign jurisdiction where you intend to do business or have clients, or whether a derivative or security might be created. See “When do Alberta securities laws apply to crypto-assets” above.
In Canada, if securities or derivatives are being traded, registration as a dealer or advisor will typically be required. You should seek the advice of a securities lawyer to assist you in determining the application of any legal requirements, and how you would be able to meet those legal requirements.
You should determine whether the coin or token you intend to offer would be considered to be a security or a derivative under Alberta securities laws and the laws of any other jurisdiction where you intend to offer the coin or token.
In Canada, if the coin or token is a security, you will need to consider and comply with the prospectus requirement or rely on a prospectus exemption. CSA Staff Notice 46-307 Cryptocurrency Offerings and CSA Staff Notice 46-308 Securities Law Implications for Offerings of Tokens provide guidance in determining whether or not the coin or token is a security by virtue of being an “investment contract”. See also “When do Alberta securities laws apply to crypto-assets” above.
If a security is being distributed, National Instrument 45-106 Prospectus Exemptions sets out most of the available prospectus exemptions. To date, most such offerings appear to be conducted under the "accredited investor" and "offering memorandum" prospectus exemptions in National Instrument 45-106 Prospectus Exemptions.
See “Raising Money by Selling Securities” for further details on prospectus exemptions.
If the coins or tokens are securities or derivatives and are being offered through a website or portal, e.g. a crypto-asset trading platform (cryptocurrency exchange), the dealer and/or adviser registration requirements, discussed above, will typically apply to the platform/exchange.
Note that the tokens that are securities and issued under prospectus exemptions will typically be subject to resale restrictions and, in the absence of discretionary exemptive relief, cannot be freely traded in a secondary market such as that typically provided by crypto-asset trading platforms.
You should seek the advice of a securities lawyer to assist you in determining the application of any legal requirements, and how you would be able to meet those legal requirements.
Crypto assets remain speculative, high-risk investments. The trading of crypto assets has been very volatile. There is a risk that an investor could lose the entire value of their investment. It is important to only invest amounts that you can afford to lose.
Some of the factors to consider when investing in crypto assets include: