Recently, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) announced that it is now accepting applications for national bank charters from nondepository banking institutions. Numerous consumer groups and state banking agencies have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the concept of a national “FinTech charter,” and it is likely one or more of these groups will sue the OCC over the legality of the new form of charter. However, assuming that the OCC prevails in the oncoming litigation, the FinTech charter may present an attractive alternative to certain businesses dealing in digital assets that under current law may be required to obtain money transmitter or similar licenses in each state in which they do business. In theory, a FinTech charter from the federal regulator would, under the National Bank Act, preempt most state banking laws and streamline state regulatory compliance. The tradeoff to businesses that successfully obtain FinTech charters is that they would become subject to substantial regulation as national banks.

We discuss the parameters of the new FinTech charter in our detailed client alert.

On July 16, 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued a customer advisory on digital tokens. Citing various studies and reports, the advisory identified high rates of fraud in some initial coin offerings, and warned investors to be on the lookout for the following risks associated with investing in digital tokens:

  • The potential for forks in open-source applications that could split away market participants, increase the number of digital coins or make coins obsolete.
  • Decrease in mining or validation costs (if price is tied to those factors).
  • Acceptance of other currencies, coins or tokens for offered goods and services.
  • The link between the value of a digital coin or token and the offered product or service.
  • Adoption of the digital coin or token as a broad medium of exchange or store of value.
  • Future competitors or technological changes that could disrupt the underlying business.
  • Future demand or uses for an application, network, product or service.
  • Liquidity in the market for a specific digital coin or token.
  • Changes to the underlying technology that could devalue digital coins or tokens.
  • Risk of theft from hacking.

The CFTC has largely ceded enforcement authority for digital tokens that are securities to the Securities and Exchange Commission, but the advisory reminds readers that “digital tokens and coins can also be derivatives or commodities, depending on how they are structured.”