France: Stablecoins : Nouvel actif ou miroir aux alouettes ?

L'ouverture au prix de la conformité

Les crypto-actifs et cryptomonnaies se caractérisent par une grande volatilité de leur prix. En soi, cette volatilité n'est pas anormale, la valeur d'un actif évoluant en fonction de paramètres micro et macroéconomiques, et bien sûr de la spéculation. Mais les cryptomonnaies ont ceci de particulier qu'elles sont très volatiles du fait de la grande spéculation qui les entoure. D'où l'idée de créer des actifs cryptographiques moins volatils, grâce aux liens avec un autre actif sousjacent (ou plusieurs, sous forme de panier). Un tel crypto-actif est connu sous le nom de stablecoin.

Un stablecoin est généralement entendu comme étant un actif crypté dont la valeur est liée à une devise, un actif réel, ou même un autre crypto-actif selon une parité fixe. Alors que les fluctuations de prix des crypto-actifs les rendent plus aptes à la spéculation, la stabilité relative des stablecoins les rend plus propices pour une utilisation dans les transactions quotidiennes. Les plus connues sont Tether, Gemini Dollar, USDC, PAX et DAI. Les stablecoins fonctionnent comme un pont entre le monde du crypto et le monde des monnaies fiat. Économiquement, cela ressemble à une politique de change fixe entre les stablecoins et une monnaie ou un étalon.

Depuis plusieurs mois, les projets de création de stablecoins se multiplient, au point d'en dénombrer plus d'une centaine [1]. Les régulateurs sont un peu déroutés par ce phénomène, mais en septembre 2018, l'organisme de réglementation de l'État de New York a approuvé un stablecoin en dollars par la plate-forme Gemini, ainsi qu'un autre projet lancé par Paxos. En novembre 2018, Goldman Sachs annonçait s'associer au projet backed Circle et Coinbase pour créer le « USD Coin ». Ce foisonnement de projets s'explique par la conjonction des vertus des actifs sous-jacents et de celles des crypto-actifs.

Typologie de stablecoins

Il existe de nombreux types de stablecoins, selon ce que les projets veulent mettre en avant pour crédibiliser la promesse de moindre volatilité et de conjonction du cours du stablecoin avec le ou les actifs sous-jacents. La pratique a pris l'habitude de distinguer trois types de ces crypto-actifs.

La première catégorie (aussi appelée IOU) est relative aux stablecoins adossés à un actif réel tel qu'une monnaie légale, de l'or ou une marchandise. Une entité centrale procède à l'émission de ces stablecoins et permet leur remboursement par référence à l'actif qu'elle détient en garantie. Le modèle IOU implique que l'organisation qui émet un stablecoin soit détentrice d'un stock de devises (généralement le US dollar, l'euro, parfois aussi un panier de devises), de métaux précieux (le plus souvent l'or) ou de marchandises lui permettant d'émettre stablecoins selon un rapport de 1:1 avec sa réserve de devises, de marchandises ou de métaux précieux. Cette première catégorie de stablecoins est la plus développée. En fait, il s'agit un peu d'un retour à la situation antérieure aux accords de Breton Woods avec l'étalon-or où les devises émises étaient garanties par le stock d'or détenu par leur banque centrale et où les porteurs pouvaient demander à échanger leurs billets et pièces par le montant équivalent en or. La principale différence bien sûr étant que les stablecoins n'ont pas de cours légal et ne sont pas qualifiés de devises. On trouve aussi dans cette catégorie des stablecoins assis sur un indice, panier de devises, ou encore sur les DTS (droits de tirage spéciaux) du FMI ! L'idée est toujours la même : comment assurer le minimum de volatilité dans la valeur du stablecoin ? Lorsque le stablecoin est garantie par une réserve de devises, son cours est quasiment identique à celui de la devise. Son utilisation revient à effectuer des paiements selon le cours de la devise sous-jacente, sans passer par les systèmes bancaires de paiement internationaux. Outre la diminution des coûts, l'utilisation de tels stablecoins permet surtout de s'affranchir de toutes les lois monétaires de la devise en garantie, qu'il s'agisse de la réglementation des changes, mais aussi des restrictions d'utilisation liées aux sanctions contre certains pays ou personnes. En pratique, aucun des émetteurs de ces stablecoins n'a sollicité l'autorisation de la banque centrale de la devise sousjacente.

Le deuxième type de stablecoins fonctionne sur le même modèle d'une émission de token par une entité centrale garantie par un actif sous-jacent, étant précisé qu'ici l'actif est lui-même une cryptomonnaies ou un crypto-actif. Cette deuxième catégorie est un peu plus sophistiquée que la première dans la mesure où l'actif sous-jacent garantissant la valeur du stock de stablecoins

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