Enterprises around the world are actively implementing a wide variety of blockchain solutions to improve efficiencies, enhance user experiences and lower transaction costs.  But the private sector’s development of distributed ledger technology is often outpacing the legal and regulatory regimes that impact it.  In the United States, numerous regulators have asserted jurisdiction over blockchain applications, frequently in redundant or even contradictory ways.  With the Blockchain Legal Resource blog, we at Hunton Andrews Kurth plan to keep track of the most notable legal and regulatory developments in the blockchain space, providing our commentary and legal insight along the way.

The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodities Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) are not the only U.S. government agencies exerting regulatory jurisdiction over initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) and cryptocurrencies. In an article written by Hunton Andrews Kurth lawyers in Crowdfund Insider, Richard Garabedian and Shaswat Das discuss the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (“FinCEN’s”) guidance, enforcement actions and related compliance issues. In 2013, FinCEN, a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury, began issuing guidance on virtual currency, explicitly stating that virtual currency exchangers and administrators are money transmitters and must comply with the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) and related regulations. Most recently, on February 13, 2018, FinCEN sent a letter to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden that sought to clarify its role as a regulator of virtual currencies and ICOs. In the letter, FinCEN asserted that individuals involved in certain ICOs must register as money services businesses (“MSBs”) and consequently comply with the corresponding BSA and anti-money laundering (“AML”) compliance requirements. The FinCEN letter notes that ICOs that are otherwise regulated by the SEC or CFTC should comply with the AML and related requirements imposed by those agencies. Despite this attempt at clarifying the state of regulatory play for ICOs and virtual currencies, federal and state MSB registration requirements remain fluid and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for ICOs and those issuing cryptocurrencies. Continue Reading AML and Sanctions Compliance Issues Facing Cryptocurrency Companies

On June 14, 2018, Bill Hinman, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, delivered a speech to an industry conference providing additional insights into how SEC staff analyze crypto assets under the Supreme Court’s Howey test. Since issuing the DAO Report nearly one year ago, the SEC has largely avoided providing additional guidance on the rapidly evolving world of ICOs. Hinman’s remarks represent a welcome departure from this position and provide critical insights into several areas of interest to the crypto community.  Continue Reading Senior SEC Official Discusses Token Offerings

Last week, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton gave an interview during which he provided his thoughts on initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) and cryptocurrencies. He applauded the “incredible promise” of distributed ledger technology as a driver of efficiencies, and also attempted to clarify the SEC’s position on its role in regulating ICOs and token offerings. Continue Reading SEC Chairman Jay Clayton Interviewed on ICOs and Cryptocurrencies

North American Securities Administrators Association (“NASAA”) members from more than 40 jurisdictions across the United States and Canada are working together in “Operation Cryptosweep,” a coordinated series of enforcement actions to crack down on fraudulent initial coin offerings (“ICOs”), cryptocurrency-related investment products and the individuals behind them.  NASAA organized a task force of its members in April 2018 to begin these coordinated investigations, which identified hundreds of ICOs in the final stages of pre-launch preparation and other cryptocurrency-related investment products.

Continue Reading Operation Cryptosweep: Regulators in the United States and Canada Crack Down on ICOs

Last week, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (“CFTC”) Division of Market Oversight and Division of Clearing and Risk issued a joint staff advisory providing guidance to exchanges and clearinghouses for listing virtual currency derivatives products.

The advisory relies on established rules and regulations as it clarifies the CFTC’s priorities and expectations in its review of new virtual currency derivatives products.  In the press release announcing the advisory, the CFTC stated its intent to exercise “appropriate oversight, while encouraging innovation and growth in these products.”

Continue Reading CFTC Issues Advisory for Listing Virtual Currency Derivatives Products

2018 continues to be a busy year for initial coin offerings, notwithstanding recent announcements from capital markets regulators in the US.  In this alert, we chronicled developments at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, state securities regulators and others.  And here we discussed recent SEC guidance on trading platforms for crypto assets.  Although the rules seem to be multiplying exponentially, it is still possible to structure and complete an ICO that is legally compliant.