Blockchain and the Law

Category Archives: Cryptocurrencies

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Digital Dollars: Amid the COVID-19 Crisis, Support for a U.S. Digital Currency Emerges

During congressional debates over the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a relatively novel idea was the focus of proposals from the Senate and House of Representatives: “digital dollars.” Several legislative proposals introduced the idea to address the delay between passage of the CARES Act and distribution of direct stimulus payments to … Continue Reading

Court Sides with SEC in Ruling to Prevent Telegram from Distributing Grams

In the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the SEC and Telegram Group Inc. (Telegram), Judge P. Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in a March 24, 2020 opinion granted the SEC’s motion for preliminary injunction to prevent Telegram from distributing Grams purchased in its initial … Continue Reading

Trump Administration Plans to Introduce New AML Requirements for Cryptocurrencies

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remarked before a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee three weeks ago that “significant new requirements at FinCEN” for cryptocurrencies would be introduced quickly, in response to Senator Maggie Hassan’s (D-NH) question regarding the Treasury Department’s proposed use of budget increases for anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorism efforts (video of the … Continue Reading

IRS Issues New Guidance for Virtual Currency Donations

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) quietly added two new questions and answers regarding virtual currency donations to its answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Virtual Currency Transactions (FAQs) on December 26, 2019.  The two new answers address the responsibilities of charitable organizations when accepting donations of virtual currency, including cryptocurrency. The original FAQs, issued … 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

IRS Officials Discuss Promotional Airdrops, Pre-2018 Crypto-for-Crypto Exchanges, and Other Issues Not Addressed in Recent Tax Guidance

In October of 2019, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service issued the first new guidance on the taxation of cryptocurrency transactions in over five years (the “Guidance”).  The Guidance comprising a revenue ruling (Rev. Rul. 2019-24) and answers to frequently asked questions on the taxation of cryptocurrency transactions published on the IRS’s website. This post discusses … Continue Reading

SEC Attempts to Halt Telegram’s Planned Token Distribution

On October 11, 2019, the SEC filed an emergency action to stop Telegram (Telegram Group Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary TON Issuer Inc.) from continuing its offering of tokens. Telegram raised approximately $1.7 billion in early 2018 through the sale of its tokens, dubbed “Grams”, which it originally committed to deliver to purchasers from … Continue Reading

IRS Answers Some, but Not All, Questions in Long-awaited Cryptocurrency Guidance

The first official guidance on the taxation of cryptocurrency transactions in more than five years has been issued. The guidance includes both a Revenue Ruling (Rev. Rul. 2019-24, 2019-44 I.R.B. 1) and answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Virtual Currency Transactions (the “FAQs,” together with Revenue Ruling 2019-24, the “Guidance”) was issued on October 9, 2019 by … Continue Reading

CFTC Chairman States Ether is a Commodity

In remarks made at the Yahoo! All Markets Summit in New York, Heath Tarbert, Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), said that he believed the Ether cryptocurrency was a “commodity” and should be regulated under the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). This statement follows the agency’s December 2018 announcement that it was seeking … 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

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

Dueling Bitcoin White Paper Copyright Registrations – What Does it Mean?

The plot has thickened in the longest-running “whodunit” in the blockchain space: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin and author of the white paper that started it all, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System? Published in 2008, Nakamoto’s paper proposed a form of electronic cash that would operate purely peer-to-peer, without the … Continue Reading

U.S. House Continues to Explore Blockchain Regulation

Following up on their recent introduction of the Token Taxonomy Act, Representatives Darren Soto (D-FL) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) have teamed up again to introduce a new slate of bipartisan bills related to virtual currency. The two new bills, H.R. 922 and H.R. 923, were introduced on January 30, 2019 and are cosponsored by Representatives … 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

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

Virtual Currencies Can Be Regulated by CFTC as a “Commodity”

In a notable ruling, a Massachusetts district court declined to dismiss a complaint filed by the Commodity Future Trading Commission (“CFTC”) against an entity over an alleged fraudulent virtual currency offering, ruling that cryptocurrencies fall under the definition of “commodity” under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and therefore may be duly regulated by the CFTC. (CFTC … 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

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
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