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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On May 24, 2019, New Zealand-based online asset exchange, Cryptopia Limited, filed a petition under Chapter 15 of the United States Bankruptcy Code seeking recognition of its New Zealand liquidation proceeding in the United States. On the same day, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York granted provisional relief to Cryptopia, including extending the benefits of the automatic stay to prevent creditors or other parties in interest from taking actions to interfere with Cryptopia’s assets. The court will conduct a hearing on Cryptopia’s petition to recognize its New Zealand liquidation proceeding on June 25, 2019, in New York.
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On May 9, 2019, FinCEN, the U.S. federal agency charged with combating money laundering, issued two new interpretive documents of interest to the crypto community. The first is interpretive guidance titled “Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Certain Business Models Involving Convertible Virtual Currencies”. The second document is an “Advisory on Illicit Activity Involving Convertible Virtual Currency”.
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As this short video explains, the “initial exchange offering,” or IEO, is the latest innovation in the offer and sale of cryptocurrencies. By partnering with a crypto exchange to aid in marketing and listing efforts, issuers engaging in an IEO hope to obtain better visibility and liquidity for their products. But like the ICOs they seek to replace, IEOs raise a host of potential issues under the US federal securities laws.
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On April 25, 2019, the New York Attorney General announced that it had obtained a court order enjoining iFinex Inc. (operator of the Bitfinex digital asset trading platform), Tether Limited (issuer of the “tether” stablecoin) and their affiliated entities from further violations of New York law in connection with ongoing activities that the Attorney General alleges may have defrauded New York investors that trade in virtual currencies.
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Hunton Andrews Kurth attorney, Mayme Beth Donohue, member of the firm’s blockchain working group, was recently interviewed as part of the University of Virginia’s new podcast series, Common Law, exploring cutting-edge issues about the future of law. Mayme discussed various practical applications of blockchain, including supply chain management, product authenticity and blockchain-based mortgages, and how in-house lawyers should think about issue spotting blockchain implementations.
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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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