Opinion

Initial Coin Scams

By Nouriel Roubini

Nouriel Roubini

Money is a public good that allows individuals to enter into free exchange without having to resort to the kind of imprecise, inefficient bartering on which traditional societies depended.

Initial coin offerings have become the most common way to finance cryptocurrency ventures, of which there are now nearly 1,600 and rising. In exchange for your dollars, pounds, euros, or other currency, an ICO issues digital “tokens,” or “coins,” that may or may not be used to purchase some specified good or service in the future.

Thus it is little wonder that, according to the ICO advisory firm Satis Group, 81% of ICOs are scams created by con artists, charlatans, and swindlers looking to take your money and run. It is also little wonder that only 8% of cryptocurrencies end up being traded on an exchange, meaning that 92% of them fail. It would appear that ICOs serve little purpose other than to skirt securities laws that exist to protect investors from being cheated.

If you invest in a conventional (non-crypto) business, you are afforded a variety of legal rights – to dividends if you are a shareholder, to interest if you are a lender, and to a share of the enterprise’s assets should it default or become insolvent. Such rights are enforceable because securities and their issuers must be registered with the state.

Read the full article as published in Project Syndicate.  
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Nouriel Roubini is a Professor of Economics and International Business and the Robert Stansky Research Faculty Fellow.