There are several risks associated with Virtual Assets and Virtual Assets trading. By accessing and using the Services, you hereby represent and warrant that you have read the following Virtual Assets Risk Warning.
Unique Features of Virtual Assets.
Virtual Assets are not legal tender in most jurisdictions, and have no intrinsic value. The price of сrypto-assets is based on the agreement of the parties to a transaction, which may or may not be based on the market value of the Virtual Asset at the time of the transaction.
The price of a Virtual Asset is based on the perceived value of the Virtual Asset and subject to changes in sentiment, which make these products highly volatile. Certain сrypto-assets have experienced daily price volatility of more than 20%. Therefore, there is a high volatility risk and holders may suffer large losses.
Market manipulation, Valuation and Liquidity.
Virtual Assets can be traded through privately negotiated transactions and through numerous Virtual Asset exchanges and intermediaries around the world, each with its own pricing mechanism and/or order book. The lack of a centralized pricing source poses a variety of valuation challenges. The holding of certain Virtual Assets is highly concentrated, which may also impact prices or liquidity. You may therefore not get a fair price or treatment when buying or selling Virtual Assets, or not be able to sell your Virtual Assets as quickly as you would want in the absence of a potential buyer. In addition, the dispersed liquidity may pose challenges for market participants trying to exit a position, particularly during periods of stress. Cases of market manipulation have been reported on multiple occasions.
The cybersecurity risks of сrypto-assets and related “wallets” or spot exchanges include hacking vulnerabilities and a risk that publicly distributed ledgers may not be immutable. A cybersecurity event could result in a substantial, immediate and irreversible loss for market participants that trade сrypto-assets. Even a minor cybersecurity event in a Virtual Asset is likely to result in downward price pressure on that product and potentially other сrypto-assets.
Opaque Spot Market.
Virtual Asset balances are generally maintained as an address on the blockchain and are accessed through private keys, which may be held by a market participant or a custodian. Although Virtual Asset transactions are typically publicly available on a blockchain or distributed ledger, the public address does not identify the controller, owner or holder of the private key. Unlike bank and brokerage accounts, Virtual Asset exchanges and custodians that hold Virtual Assets do not always identify the owner. The opaque underlying or spot market poses asset verification challenges for market participants, regulators and auditors and gives rise to an increased risk of manipulation and fraud, including the potential for Ponzi schemes, bucket shops and pump and dump schemes, which may undermine market confidence in a Virtual Asset and negatively impact its price.
Сrypto-asset Exchanges, Intermediaries and Custodians.
Сrypto-asset exchanges, as well as other intermediaries, custodians and vendors used to facilitate Virtual Asset transactions, are relatively new and largely unregulated in most jurisdictions. The opaque underlying spot market and lack of regulatory oversight creates a risk that a Virtual Asset exchange may not hold sufficient Virtual Assets and funds to satisfy its obligations and that such deficiency may not be easily identified or discovered. In addition, many Virtual Asset exchanges have experienced significant outages, downtime and transaction processing delays, flash crashes, and may have a higher level of operational risk than regulated futures or securities exchanges.
It may be difficult or even impossible to identify and/or locate the issuer of Virtual Asset, the trading platform, wallet provider or intermediary, especially in a cross-border situation where it may also be difficult to determine which laws may be applicable. Thus, if a holder has a claim it might be difficult to sue the issuer or the wallet provider and enforce a title.
The majority of Virtual Assets and the selling of products or services in relation to Virtual Assets are unregulated. In these cases you will not benefit from the rights and protections available to consumers for regulated financial services, such as complaints or recourse mechanisms.
Virtual Assets currently face an uncertain regulatory landscape in many jurisdictions. In addition, many Virtual Asset derivatives are regulated by the provisions of national and supra-national (i.e. EU) securities legislation; moreover, some state securities regulators have cautioned that many initial coin offerings are likely to fall within the definition of a security and subject to their respective securities laws. One or more jurisdictions may, in the future, adopt laws, regulations or directives that affect Virtual Asset networks and their users. Such laws, regulations or directives may impact the price of Virtual Assets and their acceptance by users, merchants and service providers.
The relatively new and rapidly evolving technology underlying Virtual Assets introduces unique risks. For example, a unique private key is required to access, use or transfer a Virtual Asset on a blockchain or distributed ledger. The loss, theft or destruction of a private key may result in an irreversible loss of Virtual Asset associated with this private key. The ability to participate in forks could also have implications for investors. For example, a market participant holding a Virtual Asset position through a Virtual Asset exchange may be adversely impacted if the exchange does not allow its customers to participate in a fork that creates a new product.
Many сrypto-assets allow market participants to offer miners (i.e., parties that process transactions and record them on a blockchain or distributed ledger) a fee. While not mandatory, a fee is generally necessary to ensure that a transaction is promptly recorded on a blockchain or distributed ledger. The amounts of these fees are subject to market forces and it is possible that the fees could increase substantially during a period of stress. In addition, сrypto-asset exchanges, wallet providers and other custodians may charge high fees relative to custodians in many other financial markets.
Risk of partial or total loss of the invested amount.
Investments in Virtual Assets are not regulated in most countries and therefore you are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong. Also, the risks associated with the investment may not be clearly stated in the documentation published by the issuer of the Virtual Asset.
Risk of insufficient information disclosure.
Information regarding any specific сrypto-asset may be missing, inaccurate, incomplete and unclear with respect to the project and its risks. Documents may be highly technical and require sophisticated knowledge to understand the characteristics of the сrypto-asset and/or the project.
In many projects, the value and stability of the сrypto-asset largely depends on the skill and diligence of the project team behind the сrypto-asset or the ICO. The project underlying an ICO might not be realised, which would ultimately make the сrypto-asset worthless.
Some Virtual Assets and related products are aggressively advertised to the public, using marketing material and other information that may be unclear, incomplete, inaccurate or even purposefully misleading. For instance, advertisements via social media may be very short, with a focus on the potential gains but not the high risks involved. You should also beware of social media ‘influencers’ who typically have a financial incentive to market certain Virtual Assets and related products and services and therefore may be biased in the communications they issue.
Fraud and malicious activities.
Numerous fake Virtual Assets and scams exist and you should be aware that their sole purpose is to deprive you of your money using different techniques, for example phishing.