Congressmen Darren Soto (D-FL) and Ted Budd (R-NC) recently introduced two bipartisan bills to address virtual currency price manipulation and maintain the United States’ leadership in the cryptocurrency industry. In a joint statement citing the New York Attorney General’s recent report on crypto exchanges and other recent media reports, the members announced that:

“Virtual currencies and the underlying blockchain technology has a profound potential to be a driver of economic growth. That’s why we must ensure that the United States is at the forefront of protecting consumers and the financial well-being of virtual currency investors, while also promoting an environment of innovation to maximize the potential of these technological advances. This bill [sic] will provide data on how Congress can best mitigate these risks while propelling development that benefits our economy.” Continue Reading Congress Considers Bipartisan Bills to Prevent Virtual Currency Manipulation

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) recently published a detailed primer on smart contracts. The Primer discusses their functionality, use cases, regulatory environment and potential risks. It describes a “smart contract” as a set of coded computer functions that (1) may incorporate the elements of a binding contract (e.g., offer, acceptance, and consideration), or (2) may execute certain terms of a legal contract, or (3) allows self-executing computer code to take actions at specified times or based on reference to the occurrence or non-occurrence of an action or event (e.g., delivery of an asset, weather conditions, or change in a reference rate). The Primer also observes that a smart contract may not be a legally binding contract, which is a critical distinction for developers and entrepreneurs (and their counsel) in the digital economy.

Continue Reading CFTC Publishes Primer on Smart Contracts

The acting general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) recently published for public comment a draft advisory opinion under the Federal Election Campaign Act and related FEC regulations regarding mining cryptocurrencies for the benefit of political committees.  According to draft Advisory Opinion 2018-13, a service provider has proposed to provide services to political committees to enable individuals to use the processing power of internet-enabled devices to mine cryptocurrencies, with the political committees receiving the mined cryptocurrency. A “political committee” is broadly defined under FEC regulations to include a wide variety of groups that have paid money or provided anything else of value to influence a federal election. Continue Reading Mining Cryptocurrency Under Federal Election Law

At a recent securities regulation conference, Bill Hinman, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, indicated that the agency intends to release “plain English” guidance around the issue of whether an ICO is a security. The SEC has provided guidance on these issues in its DAO Report and Hinman’s own prior speech, and as we have frequently blogged, has been actively enforcing perceived violations of the federal securities laws. The idea behind the plain English guidance appears to be to consolidate the SEC staff’s views into a single “how to” document for use by the lay person. Continue Reading SEC Plans “Plain English” ICO Guidance

As we have previously blogged, state and provincial securities regulators across the U.S. and Canada have been actively policing the marketplace for ICOs and security token offerings, supplementing efforts at the federal level in the United States undertaken by the SEC. Texas and Massachusetts have been particularly active on this front, and New York recently issued a blistering report on the status of crypto exchanges. Colorado and North Dakota are among the latest states to announce enforcement actions against crypto businesses. Continue Reading Colorado and North Dakota Announce ICO Enforcement Actions

On November 8, 2018, the SEC announced settled charges against an unlicensed digital token exchange (the “Platform”). It represents the SEC’s first enforcement action based on findings that such a platform operated as an unregistered national securities exchange. This action follows first-of-their kind enforcement actions that the SEC brought in September against an unregistered broker-dealer and an unregistered investment company that each transacted in digital securities. Continue Reading SEC Brings First Enforcement Action Against Unregistered Token Exchange

On November 1, 2018, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) announced its approval of the first virtual currency license for an operator of Bitcoin teller machines (“BTM”). According to DFS, to date it has now approved 12 charters or licenses for companies in the virtual currency space. Continue Reading New York DFS Licenses First Bitcoin Teller Machine Operator

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement (Division) released its latest Annual Report (Report) on November 2, 2018. The fiscal year that ended September 30, 2018, was a busy one for the SEC in the crypto and distributed ledger technology space, and the Report includes a discussion of the SEC’s initiatives on this front.

Continue Reading SEC Annual Enforcement Report Highlights Crypto and DLT Cases

Hunton Andrews Kurth partner Scott Kimpel, chair of the Firm’s blockchain working group, recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Washington Legal Foundation regarding the latest legal issues associated with ICOs and security token offerings. Co-panelists included Alan Cohn, formerly of the Department of Homeland Security and Daniel Alter, former general counsel of the New York Department of Financial Services. Continue Reading Initial Coin Offerings: Can Securities Regulators Balance Market Growth and Investor Protection?

On October 11, 2018, the Senate Banking Committee held a wide-ranging hearing entitled “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem.” The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Nouriel Roubini, an NYU professor who famously predicted the 2007-2008 financial crisis, as well as a counterpoint from Mr. Peter Van Valkenburgh, the Director of Research from Coin Center. Continue Reading Senate Banking Committee Explores Blockchain