Investment in crypto assets should be capped, with consumers warned that they could lose all their money, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority said in a policy document published Monday.
There will be a ban on offering bonuses to clients who refer friends, the financial-services regulator said as it prepares for new laws that will extend its powers to cover digital assets including cryptocurrencies.
In April, then finance minister Rishi Sunak said he wanted to make the country a crypto asset hub. But the recent market crash, which saw a fall in the price of bitcoin and the collapse of assets such as the terraUSD (UST) stablecoin and Three Arrows Capital fund, has made the regulator only more determined to act against what it sees as unduly risky behavior.
“We want people to be able to invest with confidence, understand the risks involved, and get the investments that are right for them which reflect their appetite for risk,” Sarah Pritchard, the FCA’s executive director of markets, said in a statement.
“Where we see products being marketed that don’t contain the right risk warnings or are unclear, unfair or misleading, we will act,” she said, following a consultation published in January.
The FCA said “we still consider cryptoassets, when used as a speculative investment, to be high-risk,” in spite of its lack of current powers to directly regulate the market.
Under the plans, potential crypto buyers must be given a “clearer and more prominent” warning that they could lose all their money and won’t be protected if something goes wrong. While the new rules in principle apply only to risky non-crypto products, the FCA is waiting for lawmakers to pass promised legislation that would extend them to innovative digital assets.
The regulator has tentatively said crypto would fall under an intermediate category of “restricted mass-market investments.” Marketing to retail investors wouldn’t be banned, but there are more limits than would apply to assets deemed safer, such as listed stocks.
Qualifying crypto assets “are only likely to be appropriate for consumers as a small part of a diversified portfolio,” and “should only be accessed when consumers understand the risks involved,” the document said, adding that exposure should be limited to 10% of net assets.
Sunak resigned in July, and is now vying with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.
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