In a landmark decision by the Australian federal court, Block Earner has been penalized for its Earner product, while its DeFi Access product was not subject to the same regulatory scrutiny. This case, brought forth by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), marks a significant moment for cryptocurrency regulation in Australia, underscoring the importance of clear marketing and regulatory compliance within the industry.
Federal Judge Darren Jackson’s ruling makes a clear distinction between crypto-yield products and decentralized finance (DeFi) offerings. Block Earner’s Earner product, which provided yields on loans in various cryptocurrencies, was found to require an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL). Conversely, the DeFi Access product, operating outside the bounds of a managed investment scheme, was deemed not to require such licensing.
This decision offers crucial guidance for the crypto industry on navigating Australian financial services laws, potentially shaping future business models and product offerings.
ASIC’s action against Block Earner underlines the regulatory body’s vigilance in ensuring crypto offerings comply with corporation laws. The court’s differentiation between Access and Earner products reflects the broader industry debate on regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrency services.
Michael Bacina, a digital asset lawyer at Piper Alderman, stressed the importance of accurate marketing and product feature representation, indicating that the ruling serves as a reminder for crypto businesses to align their marketing strategies with regulatory expectations.
Block Earner responded to the court’s findings by noting the ceased operation of the Earner product prior to the legal proceedings, stating that the ruling does not affect its current product offerings. However, the company acknowledges the potential need for licensing under the proposed crypto sector legislation by the Treasury.
ASIC views the court’s decision as a victory for consumer protection, signaling firms in the cryptocurrency sector to review their product offerings for compliance with financial product definitions. The regulator’s commitment to imposing financial penalties on Block Earner, with a case management hearing scheduled for March 1, 2024, underscores the seriousness with which it views regulatory adherence.