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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