The year 2018 was a busy one for the SEC in the digital asset space, with the agency cementing its role as the primary de facto regulator of crypto finance in the United States. The SEC’s enforcement division was operating at full speed, bringing a series of enforcement cases in the crypto space with an emphasis on fraud and scams involving digital assets. Notably, the SEC brought first of its kind cases involving digital securities against an unregistered broker-dealer, an unregistered investment company and an unregistered token exchange. The SEC also took action against an airdrop of securities, while at the same time providing general guidance on when the federal securities laws apply in the first place.
Congressmen Darren Soto (D-FL) and Ted Budd (R-NC) recently introduced two bipartisan bills to address virtual currency price manipulation and maintain the United States’ leadership in the cryptocurrency industry. In a joint statement citing the New York Attorney General’s recent report on crypto exchanges and other recent media reports, the members announced that:
“Virtual currencies and the underlying blockchain technology has a profound potential to be a driver of economic growth. That’s why we must ensure that the United States is at the forefront of protecting consumers and the financial well-being of virtual currency investors, while also promoting an environment of innovation to maximize the potential of these technological advances. This bill [sic] will provide data on how Congress can best mitigate these risks while propelling development that benefits our economy.” Continue Reading Congress Considers Bipartisan Bills to Prevent Virtual Currency Manipulation
At a recent securities regulation conference, Bill Hinman, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, indicated that the agency intends to release “plain English” guidance around the issue of whether an ICO is a security. The SEC has provided guidance on these issues in its DAO Report and Hinman’s own prior speech, and as we have frequently blogged, has been actively enforcing perceived violations of the federal securities laws. The idea behind the plain English guidance appears to be to consolidate the SEC staff’s views into a single “how to” document for use by the lay person. Continue Reading SEC Plans “Plain English” ICO Guidance
As we have previously blogged, state and provincial securities regulators across the U.S. and Canada have been actively policing the marketplace for ICOs and security token offerings, supplementing efforts at the federal level in the United States undertaken by the SEC. Texas and Massachusetts have been particularly active on this front, and New York recently issued a blistering report on the status of crypto exchanges. Colorado and North Dakota are among the latest states to announce enforcement actions against crypto businesses. Continue Reading Colorado and North Dakota Announce ICO Enforcement Actions
On November 8, 2018, the SEC announced settled charges against an unlicensed digital token exchange (the “Platform”). It represents the SEC’s first enforcement action based on findings that such a platform operated as an unregistered national securities exchange. This action follows first-of-their kind enforcement actions that the SEC brought in September against an unregistered broker-dealer and an unregistered investment company that each transacted in digital securities. Continue Reading SEC Brings First Enforcement Action Against Unregistered Token Exchange
The SEC’s Division of Enforcement (Division) released its latest Annual Report (Report) on November 2, 2018. The fiscal year that ended September 30, 2018, was a busy one for the SEC in the crypto and distributed ledger technology space, and the Report includes a discussion of the SEC’s initiatives on this front.
A recent bipartisan letter from Members of Congress seeks clarification from SEC Chairman Jay Clayton as to the status of digital tokens and cryptocurrencies under the federal securities laws. The signatories expressed their view that not all digital tokens should be deemed securities, and voiced their concern that the SEC should not use its enforcement mechanism alone to craft policy on this issue. Instead, the Members advocated in favor of formal SEC guidance to clear up “uncertainties which are causing the environment for the development of innovative technologies in the United States to be unnecessarily fraught.” Continue Reading Members of Congress Request SEC Guidance on Crypto Assets
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, 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
On September 10, 2018, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) authorized Gemini Trust Company and Paxos Trust Company to each offer a price-stable cryptocurrency, also known as a stablecoin, pegged to the U.S. dollar. Both Gemini and Paxos hold limited purpose trust company charters under the New York Banking Law and are authorized to offer services for buying, selling, sending, receiving and storing virtual currency. Gemini is controlled by the Winklevoss brothers, whose application for a Bitcoin ETF was recently denied by the SEC. Continue Reading New York DFS Authorizes Two Stablecoins