This week, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released its corporate plan for 2018-2022, which outlined its intent to increase scrutiny of cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs).
ASIC, which regulates and monitors Australia's financial industry, claimed that, although crypto assets represent a very small portion of global assets, their growth in popularity warrants "increased regulatory monitoring."
According to the corporate plan, ASIC claims it will continue to examine products related to cryptocurrency and ICOs that pose potential threats to investors because of the "misconduct that is facilitated by or through digital and/or cyber-based mechanisms."
ASIC plans to fight this kind of misconduct in 2018 and 2019 by "applying the principles for regulating market infrastructure providers to crypto exchanges," and monitoring "emerging products, such as ICOs, and intervening where there is poor behavior and potential harm to consumers and investors."
Cryptocurrency exchanges currently operating in Australia are required to adhere to anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing, and know-your-customer regulations implemented in April by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the country's financial intelligence agency.
This announcement seems to be the culmination of many debates surrounding the regulation of digital currencies in Australia. In April, ASIC was looking into applying Australian regulations to foreign ICOs that accept funds from Australian investors. By contrast, in October 2017 ETHNews reported that Tony Richards, head of the Payments Policy Department for the Reserve Bank of Australia, stated that he did not believe cryptocurrencies raised any pressing regulatory concerns. Just a few months earlier, the Australian Parliament posted a draft outlining anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations on its website.