Blockchain and the Law

Category Archives: Cryptoassets

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New York Proposes Conditional BitLicense Framework

The New York State Department of Financial Services (the “NYDFS”), as a part of a series of virtual currency initiatives, proposed in June a framework for applying for and obtaining a virtual currency Conditional BitLicense. The framework is aimed at easing the process for businesses to enter the New York virtual currency marketplace and providing … Continue Reading

SEC Swings Into 2020, Warning Investors of Initial Exchange Offerings

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an alert on January 14, 2020, warning investors of initial exchange offerings and the potential for fraud. This follows the 2020 examination priorities the SEC released at the beginning of the year, which touched on virtual currencies and digital assets, and signals continued monitoring of market … Continue Reading

Among an Array of 2020 Examination Priorities, SEC Signals Continued Interest in Cryptocurrency

On January 7, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) released its 2020 examination priorities. The majority of OCIE’s priorities for the coming year involved financial regulatory issues that do not directly involve cryptocurrency – for a more detailed review of those priorities, please see the Client Alert … Continue Reading

New York State Department of Financial Services Establishes New Research and Innovation Division

On July 23, the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “DFS”) issued a press release announcing the establishment of a new Research and Innovation Division (the “Division”) within the DFS. The Division will take on the responsibility of licensing and supervising entities engaged in “virtual currency business activity” that fall within the scope … Continue Reading

Utah Passes the Third State-Run “Sandbox” for Innovative Financial Products and Services

Utah’s governor recently signed into law H.B. 378, which created a sandbox program for companies providing “innovative financial products or services” in the state. The program, run by Utah’s Department of Commerce, requires companies to apply and meet certain requirements in order to participate in the sandbox. Importantly, H.B. 378 specifically includes “blockchain technology” within … Continue Reading

SEC Qualifies Blockstack and YouNow Regulation A Offerings

Blockstack On July 10, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) qualified Blockstack PBC’s (“Blockstack’s”) offering circular, enabling Blockstack to commence sales and distribution of up to $40 million worth of its Stacks Tokens (“Stacks”) under Regulation A. This marks the first time in history that the SEC has qualified a Regulation A offering of … Continue Reading

As Bitcoin’s Price Moves Dramatically, ETF Proposals Remain at a Standstill

On June 26, the price of bitcoin surged to a 12-month high of nearly $13,900 (up about 35% on the month) before losing more than $1,700 in a span of 15 minutes, then rebounding slightly and closing the day at around $12,800. All the while, retail and institutional investors seeking to gain exposure to this … Continue Reading

Blockstack Announces SEC Filing for $50 Million Regulation A Token Offering

On April 11, Blockstack Token LLC (“Blockstack”) filed a preliminary offering circular with the SEC for a $50 million token offering under Regulation A of the Securities Act. The offering circular is now under review with the SEC and must be qualified (i.e., cleared) by the SEC before sales of Blockstack’s tokens (“Stacks Tokens”) can … Continue Reading

SEC Gives Guidance on Securities Analysis for Digital Assets: TurnKey No-Action Letter and Framework Publication

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently issued highly anticipated guidance to assist market participants in determining whether a digital asset is offered and sold as a security. On April 3, 2019, the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology published an analytical framework for evaluating whether the offer and sale of a digital … Continue Reading

Warning Shot: Charges Against OneCoin Include Securities Fraud

In early March, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney unsealed indictments against the leaders of the Bulgarian-based “purported” cryptocurrency “OneCoin” on wire fraud, money laundering and federal securities fraud charges relating to an alleged $3 billion pyramid scheme devised to market OneCoin. OneCoin’s lawyer has also been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly conducting … Continue Reading

Two New Bitcoin ETF Proposals Pending as Cryptocurrency Markets Mature

Two recent proposals for bitcoin exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) are vying to become the first to receive approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) – one filed by CBOE BZX Exchange, Inc. (“CBOE”) and the other by NYSE Arca, Inc. (“NYSE Arca”). The SEC has yet to approve a cryptocurrency ETF, although several applications … Continue Reading

Guidance on Cryptoassets: UK Financial Conduct Authority Issues Consultation Paper

On January 23, 2019, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) issued its widely anticipated “Guidance on Cryptoassets” consultation paper CP19/3 (the “Consultation”). The Consultation followed the UK Cryptoassets Task Force’s publication last October, which set out the UK’s policy and regulatory approach to cryptoassets and distributed ledger technology and called for the FCA to issue … Continue Reading

New York Grants BitLicenses to Robinhood Crypto and LibertyX

On January 24, 2019 the New York Department of Financial Services (the “DFS”) announced that it had granted BitLicenses to Robinhood Crypto, LLC and Moon Inc. (d/b/a LibertyX). These are the fifteenth and sixteenth BitLicenses granted by the DFS since the final BitLicense rules were released in 2015. Robinhood Crypto is a subsidiary of popular stock … Continue Reading

New York Approves Nationwide Licensing Tool for Virtual Currency Business Activity Companies

New York State has taken measures this year to modernize its approach to regulation for blockchain-based companies. Even before Assembly Bill A8783B established a government task force to study the effects of blockchain and digital assets on financial markets in the state, in October, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”) announced that … Continue Reading

Airfox and Paragon Settle with SEC for Unregistered ICOs: Civil Monetary Penalties Imposed; Rescission and Registration Required

On November 16, the SEC announced that it settled charges against CarrierEQ, Inc. (“Airfox”) and Paragon Coin, Inc. (“Paragon”) for securities offering registration violations in connection with their respective initial coin offerings (“ICOs”). The settlement orders represent the first time the SEC has imposed civil penalties against ICO issuers solely for securities offering registration violations … Continue Reading

CFTC Commissioner: Code Developers May be Accountable for Smart Contracts

Recently at a conference in Dubai, Brian Quintenz, who is a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner, expressed his personal opinion (rather than the views of the CFTC) on the conceptual challenges in applying the CFTC’s regulatory oversight to, and fostering accountability for, smart contracts that reside on decentralized blockchains. In particular, Quintenz conveyed his … Continue Reading

SEC Launches FinHub

On October 18, the SEC announced the launch of a new Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (the “FinHub”). The FinHub provides an online portal for market participants to engage with the SEC on a range of FinTech-related issues, including distributed ledger technology and digital assets. The FinHub contains a comprehensive repository of information … Continue Reading

Crypto Crackdown – SEC Imposes Broker-Dealer and Investment Company Registration Provisions on Token Traders and a Crypto Fund

The SEC announced a pair of settled orders on Tuesday extending additional provisions of the securities laws over ICOs and other digital assets – the agency’s first ever enforcement actions of their kind. As the SEC has been suggesting for over a year, because digital assets offered and sold in initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) are … Continue Reading

Federal Judge Rules Securities Laws May Cover ICOs

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie of the Eastern District of New York has ruled that initial coin offerings (ICOs) may be subject to securities law. The ruling came in the court’s denial of defendant Maksim Zaslavkiy’s motion to dismiss an indictment that alleges that he committed securities fraud for selling tokens that he claimed represented … Continue Reading

Crypto Exchanges Join Virtual Commodity Association Seeking to Establish Industry Standards

Despite the recent setback of having their Bitcoin ETF rejected by the SEC for the second time, the Winklevoss brothers remain undeterred in their efforts to bring cryptocurrency into the investment mainstream. Their latest project is the Virtual Commodity Association (VCA), a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for the virtual currency industry aiming to serve in the same capacity … Continue Reading

First Decision in Class-Action Context Concludes Digital Tokens Can Be Securities

For digitally savvy investors itching to know whether U.S. courts would treat crypto-tokens as securities subject to the regulatory requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, the wait is over—sort of. The first federal judge to decide the issue in the class-action context landed on the same side as the SEC did back in 2017, … Continue Reading

New York State Department of Financial Services Eases Backlog and Approves More BitLicense Applications

On June 14, 2018, the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “DFS”) announced that the agency granted a virtual currency license (or “BitLicense”) to bitcoin wallet and vault provider Xapo, Inc., and authorized the blockchain financial services company Paxos Trust Company LLC to expand their business to offer exchange and custodial services to … Continue Reading

SEC Director William Hinman: “Current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions”

At last week’s Yahoo! All Markets Summit in Palo Alto, SEC Division of Corporation Finance Director William Hinman delivered a speech sure to send shockwaves through the crypto world. Applying the Howey test (which sets forth the elements necessary for determining whether a transaction involves the offer or sale of an “investment contract” and thus, … Continue Reading

Another SEC Enforcement Action against Allegedly Fraudulent ICO

On May 29, the SEC announced that it had secured injunctive relief halting an allegedly “ongoing fraud” involving an unregistered, non-exempt ICO that raised as much as $21 million in cryptoassets. The SEC’s complaint charges Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services, Inc., EHI Internetwork and Systems Management, Inc. and Michael Stollery, (collectively, the “Titanium defendants”) with fraud … Continue Reading
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