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

For many public companies, the annual meeting voting process is littered with intermediaries and inefficiencies that can result in a lack of shareholder engagement. Proposals are often voted on by proxies instead of by shareholders, oftentimes weeks in advance of the meeting. Few shareholders attend annual meetings in person. Large institutional shareholders may be granted engagement opportunities with management of the company that are not afforded to individual shareholders. These factors can result in a lack of transparency in the voting process and asymmetrical voting power amongst shareholders. Blockchain technology has several potential applications that can remedy these inefficiencies and restore shareholder trust and engagement. Continue Reading The Promise of Blockchain Technology in Annual Meetings and Corporate Governance

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

Recently, in a wide-ranging speech, the SEC’s Chief Accountant, Wes Bricker, provided his thoughts on how the SEC accounting staff analyzes accounting issues surrounding digital assets and distributed ledger technology. Bricker emphasized that companies must continue to maintain appropriate books and records, irrespective of whether distributed ledger technology, smart contracts or other technology-driven applications are (or are not) used. Likewise, when accounting for digital assets, companies should act appropriately within the parameters of the existing requirements of the federal securities laws. Accordingly, they should consider traditional regulations and accounting standards such as those relating to books and records, internal accounting controls, internal control over financial reporting, and custody. Bricker emphasized that “[d]istributed ledger technology and digital assets, despite their exciting possibilities, do not alter this fundamental responsibility.” Continue Reading SEC’s Chief Accountant Discusses Digital Assets

Recently, several states have passed legislation allowing the use of smart contracts and blockchain technology in various commercial contexts. A “smart contract” is commonly defined in such legislation as an event-driven program or computerized transaction protocol that runs on a distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger that executes a contract or any provision(s) of a contract by taking custody over and instructing transfer of assets on the ledger.  Continue Reading The State of Smart Contract Legislation

Recently, the International Law Section of the New York State Bar Association published its annual International Law Practicum issue featuring an extensive collection of articles discussing cryptocurrency regulation in various jurisdictions around the world. Hunton Andrews Kurth partner Torsten Kracht served as editor of the issue, and associate Mayme Donohue contributed an article called “Blockchain and Cryptocurrency: An Introduction and Primer.”

Articles are reprinted with permission by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

On August 9, 2018, the World Bank issued a press release highlighting what it described as the “World’s First Blockchain Bond.” It will be issued in Australia and, according to news reports, will be called a BONDI—both in honor of the famous Australian beach and also a clever acronym for “Blockchain Offered New Debt Instrument.” The issue size is approximately AUD $100 million (about USD $74 million).

Current regulations in the United States limit the ability of securities to trade exclusively over a blockchain, but over time we believe they will become more commonplace as the rules and market practice adapt. More fundamentally, there is a huge potential in blockchain to disrupt the current U.S. trading and settlement process that developed after the paperwork crisis of the early 1970s and is now based on a decades-old business model.