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

On June 25, 2018, a magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida released a report finding that cryptocurrency tokens issued in an initial coin offering (“ICO”) by the startup company, Centra Tech, are securities under the federal securities laws. This report was released in connection with a class action lawsuit filed by former investors claiming that Centra Tech and its founders violated the federal securities laws through a token sale that ultimately raised $30 million in cryptocurrencies. The former investors allege that the sale of the Centra Tech tokens was an unregistered offer and the sale of securities was in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). Continue Reading U.S. Judge Finds That Centra Tech Token Is a Security

On June 14, 2018, Bill Hinman, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, delivered a speech to an industry conference providing additional insights into how SEC staff analyze crypto assets under the Supreme Court’s Howey test. Since issuing the DAO Report nearly one year ago, the SEC has largely avoided providing additional guidance on the rapidly evolving world of ICOs. Hinman’s remarks represent a welcome departure from this position and provide critical insights into several areas of interest to the crypto community.  Continue Reading Senior SEC Official Discusses Token Offerings

Last week, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton gave an interview during which he provided his thoughts on initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) and cryptocurrencies. He applauded the “incredible promise” of distributed ledger technology as a driver of efficiencies, and also attempted to clarify the SEC’s position on its role in regulating ICOs and token offerings. Continue Reading SEC Chairman Jay Clayton Interviewed on ICOs and Cryptocurrencies

Enterprises around the world are actively implementing a wide variety of blockchain solutions to improve efficiencies, enhance user experiences and lower transaction costs.  But the private sector’s development of distributed ledger technology is often outpacing the legal and regulatory regimes that impact it.  In the United States, numerous regulators have asserted jurisdiction over blockchain applications, frequently in redundant or even contradictory ways.  With the Blockchain Legal Resource blog, we at Hunton Andrews Kurth plan to keep track of the most notable legal and regulatory developments in the blockchain space, providing our commentary and legal insight along the way.

Last week, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (“CFTC”) Division of Market Oversight and Division of Clearing and Risk issued a joint staff advisory providing guidance to exchanges and clearinghouses for listing virtual currency derivatives products.

The advisory relies on established rules and regulations as it clarifies the CFTC’s priorities and expectations in its review of new virtual currency derivatives products.  In the press release announcing the advisory, the CFTC stated its intent to exercise “appropriate oversight, while encouraging innovation and growth in these products.”

Continue Reading CFTC Issues Advisory for Listing Virtual Currency Derivatives Products

2018 continues to be a busy year for initial coin offerings, notwithstanding recent announcements from capital markets regulators in the US.  In this alert, we chronicled developments at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, state securities regulators and others.  And here we discussed recent SEC guidance on trading platforms for crypto assets.  Although the rules seem to be multiplying exponentially, it is still possible to structure and complete an ICO that is legally compliant.