One-Two-Three Punch: SEC and FINRA Announce Actions Against Unregistered Broker, Digital Asset Manager and FINRA Registered Person

On September 11, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) separately announced three “first of their kind” enforcement actions against participants in the digital asset (or “token”) market:

  • In the Matter of TokenLot LLC. The SEC took action against a token sale website for operating as an unregistered broker-dealer in violation of the federal securities laws.
  • In the Matter of Crypto Asset Management, LP. The SEC entered an order against a digital asset hedge fund manager for failing to register its fund as an investment company and offering and selling its fund’s securities in an unregistered offering.
  • Department of Enforcement vs. Timothy Tilton Ayre. In its first disciplinary action involving digital assets, FINRA filed a complaint alleging that a registered person of a member firm violated federal securities laws and FINRA rules in its offering of a blockchain token as an unregistered security.

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“Cryptoassets are here to stay”: EU Authorities to Provide Guidance on Cryptocurrencies and ICOs

On September 4, the Innovation Group of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs met to discuss a proposal presented by the rapporteur Ashley Fox,1 member of the European Parliament, to include a framework for initial coin offerings (ICOs) within the proposed European Union (EU) financial services regulatory regime for crowdfunding2 (see European Commission (Commission) proposal COM(2018) 113 final).3

As part of the public discussion, the Commission, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were present to provide their thoughts.

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The Sheriffs are in Town: Recent Developments in Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) Enforcement and Investor Education

In the months following director William Hinman’s noteworthy speech on whether and when a digital asset is subject to securities laws, U.S. regulators have continued their stern warnings regarding the importance of compliance with the securities laws. This post highlights three important regulatory updates:

  1. On August 14, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) issued an administrative order, In the Matter of Tomahawk Exploration LLC and David Thompson Laurance, taking action against an unregistered and fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO).
  2. On August 28, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) released an update on the progress of its ongoing Operation Cryptosweep.
  3. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued two investor alerts, on July 27 and August 16, regarding blockchain tokens and ICOs.

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New Belgian Data Protection Act Takes Effect

On September 5, 2018, the new Belgian Data Protection Act implementing the GDPR (the Belgian Act) was published and entered into force. Despite the GDPR being an EU regulation that directly applies to all EU Member States, several provisions of the GDPR explicitly allow, and even require, Member States to enact legislation which implements the law. Member States were expected to have this legislation in place by May 25, 2018, but the majority of Member States (including Belgium) did not meet the deadline. Since December 2017, however, Belgium has had in place a law implementing many of the more procedural provisions of the GDPR, namely the Act on the Establishment of the Supervisory Authority (the SA Act). The SA Act lays down the structure, powers and competence of the new Belgian Supervisory Authority, and also includes rules of procedure applicable to administrative proceedings before the Authority.

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European Data Protection Board Clarifies Application of GDPR to Payment Service Providers

On July 5, 2018, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB)1 replied to a request from a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Dutch Democrat Sophie in ‘t Veld, for clarification on a number of issues relating to the protection of personal data under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679) (GDPR) and the revised EU Payment Services Directive (2015/2366) (PSD2). In its response, the EDPB set out its position on how the requirement to obtain explicit consent from payment service users under PSD2 interacts with the GDPR. The EDPB also provided guidance on the use of personal data relating to a payee by an account information service provider or a payment initiation service provider acting for a payer.

This post summarizes the EDPB’s stated positions on these points and explores the implications for firms providing payment services in the European Economic Area (EEA).

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Clean-Up Bill Advances to Amend the New California Consumer Privacy Act

On Friday, August 31, the California legislature unanimously passed a host of “clean-up” amendments to the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), AB 375, as it set about addressing flaws and other concerns in the state’s groundbreaking data privacy law. These amendments are now awaiting Governor Brown’s signature.

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DataGuidance’s Thought Leaders in Privacy: Vishnu Shankar

Vishnu Shankar, an associate in our London office, spoke with DataGuidance at the 2018 IAPP Data Protection Intensive. He discussed his recommendations on regulatory requirements regarding breach notification across several key pieces of legislation, including the GDPR and the NIS Directive, as well as sector-specific requirements.

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