Blockchain and the Law

Category Archives: Cryptocurrencies

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Ripple Faces Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Sale of Unregistered Securities

A class action lawsuit was filed on May 3rd against Ripple Labs Inc.—a fintech startup that controls the third-largest cryptocurrency in the world—and its CEO Brad Garlinghouse, alleging that Ripple sold unregistered, non-exempt securities in violation of federal and California state securities laws. In their complaint, Plaintiffs characterized the sale of XRP (Ripple’s native token) … Continue Reading

Regulatory Scrutiny of the ICO Market – What Fund Managers Should Know

Last week, former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler explained in remarks at M.I.T. that he believes the second and third most widely used virtual currencies—Ether and Ripple—may have been issued and traded in violation of securities regulations.  This comes on the heels of a crackdown on cryptocurrency-related securities by the SEC, which is particularly focused on … Continue Reading

FTC Freezes Assets and Operations of Four Promoters of Cryptocurrency Investment Schemes

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sought and received a temporary restraining order (TRO) against four promoters of alleged pyramid schemes involving cryptocurrencies. The promoters were charged with violating the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce. The FTC’s complaint (filed under seal in the U.S. District Court … Continue Reading

A Proposed Statutory Framework for State Regulation of Virtual Currency Businesses: The Uniform Law Commission’s “Uniform Regulation of Virtual-Currency Businesses Act”

Last July, the Uniform Law Commission completed a uniform model state law, known as the Uniform Regulation of Virtual-Currency Businesses Act (“URVCBA” or the “Act”) (Steve Weise participated in the preparation of the Act).  Currently, state regulation in the virtual currency space is carried out under a patchwork of laws that typically do not directly … Continue Reading

Blockchain Digital Assets in Virtual Reality, Video Games and eSports – Ready Lawyer One?

Virtual worlds similar to the OASIS in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Ready Player One may be closer than we think – and provably scarce, blockchain-based digital assets could provide the leap forward that gets us there. Already, developers are testing early implementations. Since CryptoKitties launched at the end of 2017, promptly causing a traffic jam … Continue Reading

Federal Court Grants Preliminary Injunction, Affirms CFTC Jurisdiction over Virtual Currencies

Earlier this month, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York entered a preliminary injunction order against Patrick McDonnell and his company, CabbageTech, Corp. (together, the “Defendants”). In a landmark ruling, the order upheld the CFTC’s position that “virtual currencies” are commodities subject to CFTC jurisdiction under … Continue Reading

SEC and CFTC Chairmen Testify before Senate on Cryptoasset Regulation

Last month, SEC chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC chairman Christopher Giancarlo testified before the Senate Banking Committee on their agencies’ regulatory efforts with respect to cryptoassets and ICOs. The written testimonies of chairmen Clayton and Giancarlo, as well as their verbal statements at the hearing itself, shed light on various issues including:  how tokens might … Continue Reading

New SEC Probe of ICO Issuers and SAFT Structure

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the SEC has issued dozens of subpoenas and information requests in connection with sales and pre-sales of initial coin offerings. As we have previously noted, the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit has been targeting ICOs in recent months, and the SEC has provided a number of public statements … Continue Reading

New York State Department of Financial Services Issues Guidance to Virtual Currency Entities

On February 7, 2018, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) issued guidance for all virtual currency entities licensed by New York State regarding the prevention of market manipulation, fraud, and other wrongdoing. According to DFS, New York has granted four licenses and two charters to virtual currency businesses to date. In its … Continue Reading

BitConnect Promoters Targeted in Class Action Suits, Twice in One Week

BitConnect International, PLC had a somewhat unique business model, even for an industry known for its unconventional nature.  On its face, BitConnect functioned as an exchange. However, the real purpose of the platform, and what led to its ultimate downfall, was its lending program. BitConnect “borrowed” the crypto investments of its customers in exchange for … Continue Reading

Alleging Fraud, SEC Shuts Down AriseBank’s Celebrity-Endorsed ICO of Purported “Decentralized Bank”

In its latest effort to combat scams in the initial coin offering (ICO) space, the SEC announced today that it has obtained a court order cutting off AriseBank’s ICO of “AriseCoin” tokens, appointing a receiver over AriseBank and freezing AriseBank’s and its co-founders’ digital and other assets. The SEC’s complaint against AriseBank and its co-founders … Continue Reading

Busy day for CFTC and SEC Cryptocurrency Regulators: Enforcement Actions, a Public Letter, and Joint Statement

The CFTC and SEC made numerous headlines Friday in their ongoing efforts to provide regulatory oversight of cryptocurrency markets. The CFTC announced the filing of two civil enforcement actions against allegedly fraudulent cryptocurrency-related investment schemes. The SEC’s Division of Investment Management, meanwhile, issued a letter raising concerns about registered investment companies’ (including ETFs’) investments in … Continue Reading

Renren Halts Initial Coin Offering Following Pressure from Chinese Regulatory Body

Renren Inc. (NYSE ticker RENN), a Beijing-based social network company, saw rapid growth in its stock price following the release of a whitepaper (in Chinese) and publicity over its intention to engage in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of cryptocurrency dubbed RRcoin. However, last week Renren announced it has cancelled its ICO plans, following reports … Continue Reading

Implications for Launch of tZERO, First U.S. Registered ATS

The world’s first SEC-registered cryptocurrency exchange may be just around the corner. As detailed in their October 24 Form 8-K, Overstock.com subsidiary tZERO has entered into a joint venture with The Argon Group and RenGen LLC to launch a U.S. registered Alternative Trading System (“ATS”) for digital tokens. If successful, the tZERO ATS may represent … Continue Reading

Multi-Billion Dollar Japanese Tech Conglomerate to Process Salaries in Bitcoin

GMO Internet Inc. (“GMO”) is a Japanese-based tech conglomerate with over 4,700 full-time employees and a market cap of over 200 billion yen.  Since May 2017, the organization has taken steps to enter the cryptocurrency space, including the creation of a cryptocurrency exchange targeted towards institutional investors and retail traders and the formation of a … Continue Reading

When Smart Contracts are Outsmarted: The Parity Wallet “Freeze” and Software Liability in the Internet of Value

The recent Parity wallet “freeze” provides yet another example of a coding vulnerability in a smart contract (rather than a flaw in the underlying blockchain or cryptography) resulting in an exploit that compromises cryptocurrency worth millions. It again highlights some of the pitfalls of insecure code in the context of digital assets and raises questions … Continue Reading

Further SEC action and guidance with respect to ICOs and cryptocurrencies

The SEC took two additional steps today in its regulation and oversight of the initial coin offering (“ICO”) and cryptocurrency markets. In the SEC’s latest action targeting an ICO, the SEC Enforcement Division’s new Cyber Unit intervened in an attempted ICO by Munchee, Inc., an online food review service with plans to build out its network … Continue Reading

Bitcoin Futures Trading Kicks Off; CFTC to Monitor Risk

CBOE Global Markets Inc. (CBOE) began trading CFTC-approved bitcoin futures on December 10th, and CME Group Inc. (CME) will begin trading them on December 18th. Bitcoin futures have generated significant attention as the first cryptocurrency-based derivative products to be traded on major U.S. exchanges. Bitcoin futures provide institutional and retail investors increased exposure to the … Continue Reading

SEC Cyber Unit Targets PlexCoin

On December 4, the SEC’s new Cyber Unit announced it obtained an emergency asset freeze to halt the initial coin offering (“ICO”) of PlexCoin. According to the SEC, the Plexcoin ICO had raised up to $15 million to date through the fraudulent sale of unregistered securities. This is the first-ever enforcement action by the SEC’s … Continue Reading

Legal Ramifications of Paying Employees with Cryptocurrency

As cryptocurrencies surge in value and enter mainstream consciousness, an increasing number of employers may consider compensating their employees with bitcoin, ether, or other cryptocurrencies.  While a cryptocurrency compensation scheme may proliferate everyday usage of these currencies and attract tech-savvy labor talent to organizations, it may also put an employer at risk of wage and … Continue Reading

U.S. Court Orders Coinbase to Share Information about Account Holders with the IRS but Limits to Transactions over $20,000

A U.S. federal district court judge on Tuesday, November 29 ordered Coinbase Inc., the largest cryptocurrency exchange and storage platform in the world, to provide information about certain of its account holders to the U.S. Internal Revenue Services (IRS).  Information pertaining to as many as 14,355 account holders and 8.9 million transactions could be covered … Continue Reading

Third Class Action for Tezos ICO

For the third time this month, the Tezos blockchain project is the subject of a class action complaint for claims arising from their $232 million July initial coin offering (“ICO”). Consistent with both prior lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege that the Tezos ICO constituted the unregistered, non-exempt offer and sale of securities in violation of the … Continue Reading

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton’s Remarks on ICOs

In his remarks at a recent Practicing Law Institute program on securities regulation, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton once again addressed Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs.  Mr. Clayton highlighted several issues in particular, including that in his view there is a lack of information about many online platforms that list and trade virtual coins or … Continue Reading
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