By

Geoffrey F. Aronow

15 November 2018

First SEC Enforcement Action Against Decentralized Digital Asset Exchange Echoes Recent Public Statements

In the first case of its kind, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced an enforcement action related to EtherDelta, a decentralized digital asset trading platform that the SEC found operated as an unregistered national securities exchange. The enforcement action was brought against Zachary Coburn (Founder) of EtherDelta, rather than against any entity.

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20 September 2018

New York State Department of Financial Services Challenges OCC Authority on Fintech Charters

On July 31, 2018, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced its decision (the Fintech Charter Decision) to begin accepting applications from financial technology (fintech) companies for special purpose national bank charters.1 The OCC has indicated it will not grant a charter to a fintech company that wishes to accept deposits or engage in fiduciary activities (for business plans that involve purely fiduciary activities, a limited purpose trust charter may provide an alternative vehicle). The Fintech Charter Decision is discussed in greater detail in a prior Sidley Banking and Financial Services Update.2

On September 14, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) filed a federal court complaint seeking to enjoin further actions by the OCC to implement the Fintech Charter Decision and related actions, arguing that such acts are lawless, ill-conceived and destabilizing of financial markets. DFS also argued that such acts are beyond the OCC’s statutory authority and in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, alleging that the police power to regulate financial services and products delivered within a state’s own geographical jurisdiction is among a state’s fundamental sovereign powers.3 (more…)

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11 September 2018

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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15 June 2017

CFTC Approves Amendments to Recordkeeping Rules

On May 23, 2017, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) unanimously approved proposed amendments to the recordkeeping obligations set forth in CFTC Regulation 1.31 (Recordkeeping Rule) which is applicable to all CFTC registered entities and other persons required to maintain records under the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). The final amendments are intended to modernize the Recordkeeping Rule by making the form and manner in which regulatory records must be kept technology-neutral. The amendments provide recordkeepers with greater flexibility regarding the retention and production of CFTC regulatory records. The CFTC indicated that it does not believe the amendments impose any new recordkeeping requirements on any recordkeeper, and existing recordkeeping methods remain valid for compliance with the amended Recordkeeping Rule should a recordkeeper choose not to take advantage of the less-prescriptive, principles based approach of the amended Recordkeeping Rule. The final amendments also reorganized the Recordkeeping Rule for ease of understanding, including by adopting new definitions. The amendments represent a long-awaited and generally positive modernization of important CFTC rules that have often frustrated market participants. The effective date for the amended Recordkeeping Rule is August 28, 2017. (more…)

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28 April 2016

CFTC Asserts Jurisdiction Over Bitcoin Derivatives

This Article originally appeared in the Thomson Reuters FinTech Law Report, Volume 18, Issue 6 (2016).

On September 17, 2015, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued an order (“Coinflip Order”) settling charges brought against Coinflip, Inc., the operator of an online trading platform that facilitated the trading of derivatives on Bitcoin and other digital currencies, also referred to by the CFTC and other regulators as “virtual currencies” (“Bitcoin Derivatives”), including U.S. dollar cash-settled options. The CFTC found that Coinflip, Inc. had violated the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and CFTC rules by failing to register as a swap execution facility (“SEF”) or designated contract market (“DCM”). The direct impact of the Coinflip Order is minimal, as the platform itself had already shut down due to lack of volume. However, the Coinflip Order represents a watershed in the development of virtual currencies, as it is the first time that the CFTC has affirmatively asserted that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are “properly defined as commodities” and that the CFTC has jurisdiction over Bitcoin Derivatives.

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