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

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

On September 27, 2018, the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) charged an international securities dealer with illegally offering and selling to U.S. investors security-based swaps funded with bitcoins and related violations of the Commodities Exchange Act. The broker, 1pool Ltd., a.k.a. 1Broker, and its CEO, Patrick Brunner, were both named in the complaint filed by the SEC with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Continue Reading SEC and CFTC Charge a Bitcoin-Funded International Securities Dealer

Recently, Canadian investment firm First Block Capital Inc. reported that FBC Bitcoin Trust, which the firm bills as the “first and only open-ended bitcoin fund approved by Canadian regulators,” has achieved mutual fund trust status under Canada’s Federal Income Tax Act. Units of a mutual fund trust are considered qualified investments under registered plans such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (“RRSPs”) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (“TFSAs”). Continue Reading Canadian Bitcoin Fund Granted Mutual Fund Trust Status

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

On August 28, 2018, as reported in Business Insurance, Lloyd’s of London underwriters have agreed to insure digital currency storage company, Kingdom Trust Co., against theft and destruction of cryptocurrency assets. The cover comes after almost a decade-long search by Kingdom Trust for insurance to cover its cryptoassets. According to Business Insurance, Kingdom Trust sees the availability of insurance as a key factor in bringing institutional investors into the marketplace by dispelling concerns about lack of traditional safeguards in the emerging cryptoasset space. Continue Reading Lloyd’s Jumps Into the Cryptocurrency Market, Insuring Part of Kingdom Trust’s $12 Billion Assets

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.

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