The latest state to confront the utility token issue, Colorado recently enacted the Digital Token Act. The Act amends the provisions of the Colorado Securities Act that require the registration of all securities offerings in the state unless an exemption is available. Specifically, the Act provides a conditional exemption from registration for certain utility tokens qualifying as “digital tokens” that have a “consumptive purpose.” It also provides limited relief from broker-dealer registration for intermediaries effecting transactions in such digital tokens.
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The 116th Congress is off to a busy start, and various members in both the House and Senate have introduced a wide range of bills impacting blockchain technology and digital currencies. Some of the bills would provide greater regulatory certainty to operators of blockchain businesses, while others focus on preventing the use of digital currency to facilitate unlawful behavior. A few of the bills were introduced in the last congress but did not pass. Though passage of any bill is never assured, we have summarized a number of the most recent bills of interest to blockchain developers and the crypto community.
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To date, virtual currency exchanges in the United States have structured their operations in an effort to avoid being required to register as an exchange with either the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. While these efforts may be entirely legal, without the regulatory protections of exchange registration, they could create enhanced risks for customers, particularly in the case of a fund’s insolvency or collapse.
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In a case being closely watched by the crypto community, a California federal judge reversed his earlier decision and, on reconsideration, issued a preliminary injunction against ICO issuer Blockvest LLC. Although the SEC has a high success rate in litigated cases, its action against Blockvest was notable because the judge initially declined to grant the SEC’s request for a preliminary injunction, then ruling that “at this stage, without full discovery and disputed issues of material facts, the Court cannot make a determination whether the BLV token offered to the 32 test investors was a ‘security.’” After reviewing new evidence, the judge subsequently reversed his position and found that Blockvest had indeed issued a security.
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The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities recently issued guidance under the Money Transmitter Act (“MTA”) for entities engaged in various forms of virtual currency business in the commonwealth. The MTA, like similar statutes in other states, requires entities engaged in a money transmitter business to obtain a license, maintain minimum net worth standards, pay a surety bond, be subject to periodic examinations, and take other actions to safeguard customer funds. As we previously reported, many of these statutes were not drafted with virtual currency businesses in mind, which has created various compliance challenges for the crypto community.
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A vigorous competition among the states to regulate digital assets has begun to develop. Some states, such as New York, have adopted regulations that take a very proscriptive approach to regulation in the interest of consumer protection. States like Wyoming, on the other hand, see an opportunity to stimulate the local economy and take a far more permissive view of digital assets.
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Not only do operators of virtual currency businesses face a growing body of federal regulations, but they must also contend with a patchwork of state laws. Recent guidance from the Texas Department of Banking provides a thoughtful discussion of the virtual currency industry and interprets the Texas Money Services Act for operators of virtual currency businesses doing business in the state.
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