Crypto Assets Regulation in France

In the context of growing interest in the Distributed ledger technology (DLT) shown by blockchain ecosystem players and also traditional financial actors, the regulation of crypto assets in the world is changing quickly. 

This article aims to give an overview of the current status of regulations of crypto assets in France.

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital Asset Providers need to be registered to operate when they:
    • provide digital assets custody services to third parties.
    • provide services to Buy/sell digital assets in exchange for fiat currencies
  • Licenses are optional for Digital Asset Providers – Visas from AMF (Autorité des Marchés Financiers)  are optional for ICOs
    • Visas and License authorise solicitation, patronage and sponsorship activities. It facilitates banking system partnerships as well.
  • Bitcoin loans are considered as consumer loans
  • Cryptocurrencies revenue need to be declared in Income Tax Declaration if gains are above 5,000€
  • STO (Securities Token Offering)  are under regulatory sandbox but companies should register
  • CBDC (Central Bank Digital Coins)  are under experiment
  • AMLD5 (the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive)  is in effect

PACTE law was adopted on 22 May 2019: ICO and DASP are regulated

Since May 2019, France has regulated Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and digital assets services providers (DASP) under PACTE law n° 2019-486.

Optional Visa for ICOs

An optional visa will be granted to ICO issuers who submit their information document to the French Financial Markets Regulator: “Autorité des Marchés Financiers” (AMF) on condition that they meet requirements. The requirements include: 

  • Incorporated as a legal entity in France;
  • Provision of an information document with all relevant information on the token offering, the project to be financed and the company;
  • System set up for monitoring and safeguarding the assets raised during the offering.
  • Compliance with the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules.

Today Scorechain offers full tracking of transactions with detection of the origins of coins, identification of 50.000+ services and risk indicators that are triggered by customizable parameters. It perfectly answers the 2 last requirements.

The AMF visa remains optional but not as an obligation for token issuers; fundraising via the issuance of virtual tokens is still legal in France. However, the advantage is that the Visa allows ICO issuers to use general solicitation. Besides, as many banks refuse to open accounts for crypto actors, this visa gives them access to a bank account more easily.AMF publishes white and blacklists of ICOs1. The one whitelisted have received the AMF Visa. French ICO is the first one – https://www.french-ico.com/.

Mandatory registration for 2 types of DASP

Regarding the Digital Assets Services Providers (DASP) (or PSAN in French: ‘Prestataires de services sur actifs numériques’), two activities should be subject to the mandatory registration with the AMF:

  • Providing digital assets custody services to third parties;
  • Buy/sell digital assets in exchange for legal tender.

The AMF will verify the reputation and competency of their corporate officers and shareholders, the existence and implementation of AML and CFT procedures before making a decision.

Optional license for all DASP

All DASP activities can apply for a license from the AMF if they wish. A wide range of activities are covered, including those 2 activities mentioned above: 

  • Custody of digital assets for third parties;
  • Purchase/Sale of digital assets against a legal tender or other digital assets (broker/dealer);
  • operation of a digital assets trading platform (stock exchange);
  • other digital assets services such as the reception and transmission of third-party orders, third-party portfolio management, advice, underwriting and placing on or without a firm commitment basis.

Some common core rules are required for all activities (insurance or equity, internal control procedures, resilient IT system, transparent pricing policy, etc.). Meanwhile, a certain number of rules are only for some specific services. For example, the first category must set out a safekeeping policy and ensure that digital assets kept on behalf of clients are returned without delay.

ICOs without a visa and unlicensed DASP will be prohibited from solicitation, patronage and sponsorship activities, but advertising will remain authorised. In case of non-compliance, the AMF may hand down sanctions and withdraw licenses. It may publish a “blacklist” of ICOs and DASP which do not meet the regulations and may block websites offering fraudulent services in digital assets. 

Coinhouse has been the first crypto license. The company is using Scorechain as an AML service provider. The aim is to reduce risk exposure and to implement transaction monitoring procedures. Coinhouse use of the software has been presented to the French regulator. Any identified fraudulent pattern, address, wallet or transaction is meticulously monitored and sent to the competent authority.

Bitcoin loan was qualified as a consumer loan in Feb 2020

For the first time in history, the bitcoin loan was classified as a consumer loan by the Nanterre commercial court on Feb 26th 2020. This landmark decision followed a dispute between the French cryptocurrency exchange platform Paymium and the English financial advisory company BitSpread.

According to Nanterre commercial court’s decision, Bitcoin is considered as a fungible and consumable intangible asset like legal tender, which means that when you lend or borrow bitcoin, it is a consumer loan that obliges you to return the same quality and quantity. 

The AMF conducted a legal analysis on the application of financial regulations to security tokens and suggested a regulatory “sandbox”  in early March 2020. 

To meet the market’s strong interest in Security Token Offerings (STOs) and in registering financial instruments in the blockchain, the AMF examined the legal obstacles to the development of security tokens.

European and national regulations allow the development of security tokens. Asset managers wishing to develop this activity would have to apply to the AMF for authorisation or update their programs of operations. The trading of security tokens could be subject to the current financial regulations. However, The current regulations (European Regulation on Central Securities Depositories CSDR, Finality Directive, national account keeping and custody requirements) do not permit full settlement in the blockchain. Security tokens listing platforms would need either an intermediary approved as a central depository or itself approved as such. 

Therefore, the AMF recommended creating a “Digital Lab” to secure the settlement of financial instruments in the blockchain. As an exemption mechanism at the European level, “Digital Lab” would allow the national authorities to waive certain requirements imposed by European regulations but incompatible with the blockchain environment, on condition that the beneficiary complies with the key principles of the financial regulation and that it is subject to increased supervision.

Later in March, the French tokenization platform Blockpulse received the registration from the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR in French: ‘Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution’) Bank of France, which makes this startup the first STO platform to achieve registration from French financial regulators. Now, French investors have access to all the benefits provided by tokenized securities. 

On 30 March, The Bank of France launched a program of experiments to test the integration of a central bank digital currencies (CBDC) for interbank settlements. Potential participants were invited to submit their applications.

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To sum up, regulation for crypto assets is evolving in France, not just as a simple transposition of AMLD5 Requirements, but also as the measure to attract good projects by fostering innovation of blockchain technology while protecting investors with more transparent information and more compatible regulations. The development of regulations shows that French regulators are willing to push blockchain technology to new heights.

What role is Scorechain playing in this evolution?

As an important actor in the blockchain ecosystem, Scorechain is active in contributing to the development of the regulations. We keep in close contact with the AMF and ACPR in France. We are also a member of the consortia LaBChain in France. Also, we have submitted our thoughts for the fifth money laundering directive (MLD5) writing as a part of the virtual currency working group in Brussels.

In practice, Scorechain helps crypto businesses all over the world to fulfil its compliance requirements. As the top cryptocurrency AML Risk software provider, Scorechain provides monitoring tools to help cryptocurrency service providers to implement their compliance policy and enhance internal controls for transaction monitoring and suspicious activities reporting.

Need to talk with our crypto AML experts? Please feel free to contact us: contact@scorechain.com

References:

1https://www.amf-france.org/fr/espace-professionnels/fintech/mes-relations-avec-lamf/obtenir-un-visa-pour-une-ico/liste-blanche

https://www.amf-france.org/en/news-publications/news/towards-new-regime-crypto-assets-france

https://www.amf-france.org/en/news-publications/news-releases/amf-news-releases/amf-grants-its-first-optional-approval-inital-coin-offering-ico

https://www.agefi.fr/fintech/actualites/quotidien/20200304/justice-clarifie-nature-pret-bitcoin-294552

https://www.amf-france.org/en/news-publications/news/legal-analysis-application-financial-regulations-security-tokens-and-precisions-bulletin-board

https://www.securities.io/blockpulse-lemonway-receive-registration-from-acpr-banque-de-france/

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bank-of-france-launches-experiment-program-on-central-bank-digital-currency

PACTE law (version in force on April 1st 2020):  https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000038496102&dateTexte=20200401

Review and analysis of the application of financial regulations to security tokens: https://www.amf-france.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/legal-analysis-security-tokens-amf-en_1.pdf