Hong Kong regulators wary of unauthorized crypto staking

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has issued a cautionary statement, alerting the public to be wary of high-yield crypto investment schemes including the “Floki Staking Program” and “TokenFi Staking Program.” 

SFC warn investors 

According to a recent announcement, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has made it clear that both the “Floki Staking Program” and “TokenFi Staking Program” lack authorization for offering to the Hong Kong public. 

The regulator says both offerings involve cryptocurrency staking services that claim to deliver notably high annualized returns, ranging from 30% to over 100%, therefore, investors must exercise caution and diligence in light of these potentially suspicious schemes.

Additionally, the administrator overseeing these products has been unable to satisfy the SFC regarding the feasibility of achieving the high annualized return targets.

Highlighting the accessibility of information about these products to the Hong Kong public through the Internet, the SFC took proactive measures. On Jan. 26, the commission added both products and their related details to the SFC’s Suspicious Investment Products Alert List.

Expressing concern, the SFC cautioned investors about “staking” arrangements associated with virtual assets, noting their potential classification as unauthorized collective investment schemes and the inherent high risk. 

The regulator says these investment products carry elevated risks, and as such, investors may find themselves with limited or no protection under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO), exposing them to the risk of losing their entire investments. 

The SFC advised investors to exercise caution, especially when encountering investment products that promise returns that seem “too-good-to-be-true,” urging vigilance in making investment decisions.

It will be recalled that in a statement released on Dec. 13, 2022, the SFC reiterated its caution to investors regarding the risks associated with virtual asset investment schemes, specifically highlighting “staking” services. 

The SFC emphasized that such arrangements could potentially be categorized as Collective Investment Schemes (CIS), directing this reminder to both investors and individuals participating in these virtual asset arrangements.

In line with its commitment to regulatory oversight, the SFC asserted its readiness to take appropriate actions in the event of any breaches of the law.

Floki responds  

In a live spaces recap on X (formerly Twitter), the Floki team responded to the developments involving the SFC. The crypto platform stressed that the SFC’s primary concern revolves around the remarkable performance of the staking programs.

Unable to divulge details regarding their discussions with the SFC, Floki clarified that they partnered with a marketing agency to launch promotions for the Floki Staking Program and TokenFi Staking Program. The agency secured media exposure, and the Floki team was under the impression that they had received approval.

The Floki team refrained from commenting on the continuation of the marketing campaign in Hong Kong for the time being. They have reassured investors of their commitment to navigating all appropriate channels to meet the requirements set by Hong Kong authorities.

Furthermore, the SFC reiterated its commitment to enforcing regulatory standards and safeguarding investors from fraudulent schemes. 

Hong Kong legislator supports spot Bitcoin ETF adoption

In related news, Hong Kong lawmaker Johnny Ng has called on the government to promptly introduce spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The decision comes on the heels of the recent approval of similar products in the U.S.

Anticipated to debut by mid-2024, Hong Kong’s first spot crypto ETFs have been under review by the SFC and the Monetary Authority.

The move is viewed as a significant stride towards aligning with global financial trends and solidifying Hong Kong’s standing in the crypto industry. The swift adoption of spot Bitcoin ETFs in Hong Kong could also have a profound impact on the region, as highlighted by industry insiders and experts.

The introduction of ETFs is deemed pivotal in aligning regulatory and industry expectations on controls and compliance, paving the way for this reality in the Asian market, where Hong Kong aspires to be a testing ground for the broader region.

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