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
Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill No. 2658 for the purpose of further studying blockchain’s application to Californians. In doing so, California joins a growing list of states officially exploring distributed ledger technology. Continue Reading California Enacts Blockchain Legislation
On October 2, 2018, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appeared on national television and announced the official launch of the Venezuelan Petro cryptocurrency. First announced in December 2017, and purportedly backed by the country’s oil and mineral reserves, the Petro is intended to supplement Venezuela’s national currency, the bolívar, which has depreciated at an exorbitant rate in the past year. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that inflation in the country will reach 1 million percent. Continue Reading The Venezuelan Petro: A Blocked and Chained Cryptocurrency in the United States
Interest in the crypto economy continues to grow in Congress. On September 25, 2018, Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH) hosted a roundtable, “Legislating Certainty for Cryptocurrencies,” with more than 50 financial institutions and crypto start-ups invited to attend. Additionally, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on financial innovation on September 28, 2018, entitled Examining Opportunities for Financial Markets in the Digital Era. Continue Reading Recent Congressional Action Involving Digital Assets and Blockchain Technology
A new report from the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”) summarizes the findings of its recent Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative (the “Initiative”). The NYAG concluded that crypto trading platforms vary significantly in their risk management strategies and in the ways they fulfill customer responsibilities. The NYAG also identified three broad areas of concern: (1) potential conflicts of interest, (2) lack of serious efforts to impede abusive trading activity, and (3) limited protections for customer funds. Continue Reading New York Attorney General Reports on Crypto Exchanges
On September 9, 2018, the SEC announced the temporary trading suspension of two securities known as Bitcoin Tracker One (“CXBTF”) and Ether Tracker One (“CETHF”). According to the SEC’s order, the broker-dealer application materials submitted to enable the offer and sale of these products in the United States, as well as certain trading websites, characterize them as “Exchange Traded Funds.” According to the SEC, other public sources characterize the instruments as “Exchange Traded Notes.” By contrast, the SEC observed that the issuer of these securities characterizes them in its offering materials as “non-equity linked certificates.” CXBTF and CETHF are listed and traded on the NASDAQ/OMX in Stockholm and have recently been quoted on OTC Link (formerly known as the “pink sheets”) in the U.S. The SEC temporarily suspended trading in these securities in light of apparent confusion among market participants regarding the characteristics of these instruments. Continue Reading SEC Acts Over Weekend to Suspend Trading in Certain Crypto Stocks
This post has been updated.
On August 22, 2018, following its recent decision denying the application of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, the SEC denied applications for nine more Bitcoin ETFs. The orders involving applications by Cboe BZX and NYSE Arca (here and here) are similar to each other and cite many of the same reasons for denial. As with the Winklevoss application, the SEC went out of its way to emphasize that “its disapproval does not rest on an evaluation of whether bitcoin, or blockchain technology more generally, has utility or value as an innovation or an investment.” Instead, the SEC reasoned that the exchanges failed to meet their burdens under SEC regulations to demonstrate their ability to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices in respect of the planned ETFs. Notably, the exchanges did not demonstrate that bitcoin futures markets are “markets of significant size.” These orders are not surprising in light of the recent position the SEC took with the Winklevoss application, and they continue to show that the SEC remains skeptical of the burgeoning digital asset economy.
Update: Since this blog post went to press, the SEC announced that the commissioners would review the earlier orders, and the denial of the nine ETFs has, as of August 24, been stayed.
A recent settled SEC enforcement action against an ICO issuer (the “Company”) and its promoter calls into question the viability of the “airdrop” model of distributing digital tokens to investors. In the ICO context, an “airdrop” generally refers to the widespread distribution of digital tokens to community members either for free or in exchange for performing menial tasks. Whether such a distribution model runs afoul of the federal securities laws has been the subject of much debate in recent months, and the SEC’s case provides additional insight into their analysis of the issue. While a narrow path for airdrops may remain, the case will significantly curtail their current use. Continue Reading SEC Brings Enforcement Case Involving “Airdrop” of Securities
In a lengthy order issued on July 26, 2018, by a 3-1 vote the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) denied an application by the CBOE Bats BZX Exchange, Inc., (“BZX”) seeking to list and trade shares of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. The denial marks the culmination of a two-year effort by the Winklevoss brothers to launch the first bitcoin-based exchange-traded fund, or ETF, in the United States. In denying the application, the SEC cited various concerns about the lack of oversight in the underlying bitcoin market, and ruled that BZX did not demonstrate that bitcoin and bitcoin markets are uniquely resistant to manipulation, or that alternative means of detecting and deterring fraud and manipulation are sufficient in the absence of a surveillance-sharing agreement with a significant, regulated market related to bitcoin. Continue Reading SEC Denies Application for Bitcoin ETF