In an investor alert issued on January 14, 2020, staff in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy warned investors in initial exchange offerings (IEOs) to “use caution before investing  . . . through online trading platforms.”  According to the SEC staff, “Claims of new technologies and financial products, such as those associated with digital asset offerings, and claims that IEOs are vetted by trading platforms, can be used improperly to entice investors with the false promise of high returns in a new investment space.”
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On October 28, 2019, staff in the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets provided a no-action letter to Paxos Trust Company, LLC permitting it to pilot a blockchain-based clearance and settlement platform for a limited number of U.S.-listed equity securities for 24 months. The staff’s action enables the further development and commercialization of a blockchain platform for clearing and settling U.S. securities trades.
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On September 13, 2019, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions targeting three North Korean state-sponsored malicious cyber groups responsible for North Korea’s malicious cyber activity on critical infrastructure. As part of the sanctions, OFAC alleges that the entities conducted successful operations targeting more than 16 organizations across 11 countries, including the SWIFT messaging system, financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.
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As we first reported in April, the New York Attorney General has been locked in a complicated dispute with a virtual currency exchange operator over the authority of the Attorney General to investigate its activities.  In its defense in court proceedings, the crypto exchange asserted that the Attorney General lacked both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction over it because of its efforts to avoid doing business in New York state. In a ruling ultimately siding with the Attorney General, a New York trial court on August 19 permitted the regulatory investigation to continue. The judge’s opinion underscores the difficulty faced by crypto entrepreneurs seeking to avoid contacts with U.S. customers in order to avoid the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and regulators.
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The United Kingdom (UK) tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), has taken the first steps toward recovering tax that it believes may be outstanding from UK resident cryptocurrency investors: it has been reported that several crypto exchanges have received demands from HMRC relating to customer details and their transactional activity.
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On June 18, 2019, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced the commencement of a civil enforcement action (the Complaint) against two United Kingdom-based defendants, a purported Bitcoin trading company and its principal (collectively, the Defendants). The CFTC alleges that the Defendants perpetrated a wide-ranging fraud involving at least $147 million in Bitcoin from more than 1,000 customers.
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In May 2019, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) issued Information Sheet 225, “Initial Coin Offerings and Crypto-Assets” (IS 225). IS 225 provides helpful guidance for Australian entrepreneurs considering whether to raise funds through an initial coin offering (ICO) and for businesses that are involved with crypto-assets such as cryptocurrency, tokens or stable coins in Australia.
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