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French Regulator Blacklists 15 Crypto Investment Websites

France’s stock market regulator announced on Thursday that it has blacklisted 15 cryptocurrency and crypto-asset investment websites.

The Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) will add the offending platforms to its existing “liste noir,” which already includes businesses that unlawfully offer investments in commodities like diamonds, rare earth metals and wine.

The announcement explained:

“Companies in France offering the purchase of rights over goods promoting the possibility of a yield or its economic equivalent are subject to the regulation of diverse goods and as such their offer must have a registration number provided by the AMF.”

The announcement goes on to list the websites of fifteen companies who have been alerted by the AMF of their regulatory violations but continue to operate. The majority of those on the list claim to be located in the U.K.

Among them is AKJ Crypto, which claims to provide a variety of services ranging from asset storage to account management. Another, Crypteo, is a purported cryptocurrency marketplace.

The AMF’s statement  investors that “no sales pitch should make one forget that there are no high returns without high risks.” Likewise, it advises them to perform due diligence on the investments they’re considering and to weigh the criteria used to establish a product’s price.

The regulator also said that investors should consider the means by which a product can be resold and the deadlines which may correspond to this.

“Don’t invest in that which you don’t understand,” the Authority cautioned

This is not the first time the AMF has involved itself in the affairs of the crypto industry. In February, it released a statement positing that trading platforms should not be allowed to market cryptocurrency derivative products electronically because they fall within the realm of the MiFID 2 and Sapin 2 laws, the latter of which bans advertisements for certain financial contracts.

Likewise, the Authority launched the Universal Node to ICO Research Network (UNICORN) in October of 2017. At the time, it described the program as providing a framework that would allow ICO issuers to develop their operations while ensuring the protection of would-be investors.

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French Regulator Says No to Online Crypto Derivatives Ads

France’s stock market regulator released a statement about cryptocurrency-tied derivatives on Thursday, which includes a curb on the advertising of such products.

In its statement, L’Autorite Des Marches Financiers (AMF) said that trading platforms should not be allowed to market cryptocurrency derivative products electronically, per regulations that cover derivatives more broadly. The publication followed a months-long review process, according to the AMF.

The agency said:

“The AMF concludes that a cash-settled cryptocurrency contract may qualify as a derivative, irrespective of the legal qualification of a cryptocurrency. As a result, online platforms which offer cryptocurrency derivatives fall within the scope of MiFID 2 and must therefore comply with the authorisation, conduct of business rules, and the EMIR trade reporting obligation to a trade repository. Above all, these products are subject to the provisions of the Sapin 2 law, and notably the ban of advertisements for certain financial contracts.”

The EU’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) is an update to previous legislation, with the stated goal of providing greater transparency across asset classes in the name of investor protection. The initiative came into effect on Jan. 3.

The AMF’s missive is the latest from the agency on the topic of cryptocurrencies, coming months after it first weighed in initial coin offerings (ICOs). In October, the agency launched an ICO-focused initiative, dubbed the Universal Node to ICO Research Network (UNICORN).

The effort, according to statements at the time, was aimed at “offering to these carriers of projects a frame allowing the development of their operations and to ensure the protection of actors and investors wishing to participate.”

Other regulatory bodies within the EU have been looking into the issue of crypto derivatives as well.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) is investigating if such contracts comply with MiFID rules, and announced in January that it was seeking public input on potential rule changes.

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Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide, investment advice. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency.

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PlexCoin Founder Gets Jail Time, Fine on Contempt Charge

U.S. and Canadian authorities appear determined to make an example of a recent initial coin offering.

On Friday, a Canadian court ordered a two-month jail sentence against PlexCoin creator Dominic Lacroix and $100,000 in fines against his company for contempt of court, according to Radio Canada. The day before, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sought extensions of its restraining order, asset freeze and order against destruction of documents by PlexCoin and its organizers, according to FinanceFeeds.

PlexCoin promised a platform that would provide the same services as bitcoin, but do so faster. “This implies a huge success for PlexCoin as soon as it launches,” its website said.

Quebec’s finance regulator, Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), had ordered PlexCoin and its parent company, DL Innov, to cancel the sale. When it allegedly did not, the AMF sought and attained a court order. Last week’s ruling by the superior court in Quebec follows the continuation of the offering in violation of the court order.

‘We do not care’

Judge Marc Lesage cited the “flippancy” of the defendants in documents seized by the AMF in justifying the fine and sentence.

“We do not care about the AMF, ” Lacroix wrote to an employee, according to the Radio Canada story, as translated from French using Google Translate.

The U.S. court orders enjoining PlexCoin and DL Innov expire on Dec. 12, but the SEC sought an order to extend them in a hearing of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of  New York, where the company has been asked to show cause why they should not expire.

The company is believed to have raised $15 million, of which $810,000 remains deposited at the payment processor Stripe, according to the SEC, and an unknown amount remains in crypto-wallets controlled by the company, FinanceFeeds reports.

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French Regulator Launches 'UNICORN' ICO Support Project

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), France’s financial regulator, has launched a new initiative focused on initial coin offerings (ICOs) as it looks to formalize a regulatory framework for the blockchain use case.

The AMF announced today a two-prong effort around the funding model, a move that comes weeks after the agency’s head, Robert Ophele, said that officials were moving quickly to develop regulatory position.

In today’s disclosure, the AMF said that it is considering one of several approaches, including an update to existing rules to account for ICOs or entirely new regulations around the use case. Further, the agency said it may issue a best-practices guide for potential organizers. Before it makes its regulatory decision, the AMF is soliciting consultations from the public, with the agency accepting submissions until Dec. 22.

Perhaps more notably, the AMF also unveiled a new program, dubbed “UNICORN,” which is aimed at providing a mechanism for ICO organizers in France to carry out their plans under the agency’s guidance.

The AMF said in a translated statement:

“Called UNICORN (for “Universal Node to ICO Research & Network”), this one, in parallel of the reflection on the possible tracks of regulation, aims at offering to these carriers of projects a frame allowing the development of their operations and to ensure the protection of actors and investors wishing to participate.”

The effort is also, in part, a bid to boost the AMF’s institutional knowledge around the tech. The agency said that it would tap participants to help it “deepen its legal and economic expertise.”

“The AMF also intends to encourage academic research on this subject and will publish a first impact analysis of these new forms of financing within one year,” the agency added.

With the move, France’s government appears to have adopted a more accommodative stance toward the blockchain use case, even going as far as to proactively encourage developer teams to get in touch. This approach has recently been seen in countries like Canada, which has given regulatory approval to two ICOs to date.

Editor’s Note: Some of the statements in this report have been translated from French. 

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