On May 13, 2022, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui of the District of Columbia took the unusual step of unsealing and issuing a Memorandum Opinion captioned “In Re: Criminal Complaint” to explain the court’s conclusion that probable cause existed to authorize a federal criminal complaint against an individual for transmitting over $10 million worth of bitcoin between the United States and an Office of Foreign Assets Control–sanctioned nation, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and defrauding the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Article I: Digital Asset Overview and Methods to Gain Exposure to Digital Assets
Given the growth of markets for cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based assets, often referred to as “digital assets,” we see growing interest from traditional investment managers in gaining exposure to this emerging asset class. We have seen development of many new products and service offerings to facilitate institutional investment in digital assets over the past year. With the recent announcement of the first bitcoin-exchange traded fund, this week, we expect continued and expansive growth in this area. This article aims to serve as an introductory guide to digital asset investing for institutional investors by describing at a high level the available service offerings and potential avenues for investment managers to gain exposure to the digital assets space.
Adoption of blockchain and distributed ledger technology has the potential to revolutionize business and business practices in ways not seen since the advent of the internet and e-commerce.
Whether you are directly responsible for researching, developing, or implementing new blockchain initiatives, or you are executive management and need a more informed understanding of the issues your project teams are confronting, Sidley’s Blockchain Legal Launch Pad is a place to which you can turn as a resource.
On September 25, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s Division of Trading and Markets issued its first no-action letter (Letter) to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA),1 related to digital asset securities. Based on the Letter, the SEC staff (Staff) would not recommend enforcement action pursuant to SEC Rule 15c3-3 (the Customer Protection Rule) under the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) if a registered broker-dealer operates a noncustodial alternative trading system (ATS) that trades digital asset securities issued and/or transferred using blockchain technology, subject to certain conditions. The Letter elaborates on the July 28, 2019, joint statement (Joint Statement) issued by the staffs of the SEC and FINRA,2 which discusses a broker-dealer’s ability to comply with the Customer Protection Rule with respect to digital asset securities and outlines potential noncustodial broker-dealer models for digital assets, including operating an ATS3 that only matches buyers and sellers of digital asset securities but does not custody such securities for the account of customers.
The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)1 seeking input on how best to accommodate new technology and innovation in the business of banking, in connection with the OCC’s “comprehensive review” of its regulations at 12 C.F.R. part 7, subpart E (national banks), and part 155 (federal savings associations) (collectively, Rules). The ANPR offers industry participants an opportunity to shape future guidance and remove regulatory burdens to offering innovative new products, partnering with technology companies and enhancing operations through deployment of new technologies. The ANPR follows on the heels of regulators’ other efforts to address technological developments,2 with the caveat that the OCC is not seeking comment on authority to issue special purpose national bank charters.
Listen to The Sidley Podcast for an informative discussion of how blockchain, digital assets and virtual currencies are changing the way we transact
Blockchain technology has the ability to transform how business and everyday commercial transactions are conducted across industries. This emerging technology represents more than just an incremental improvement in business practices — it could actually disrupt how we do business. What is blockchain, how will it affect the way we communicate and transact with each other and why are cryptocurrencies being used in conjunction with this technology?
We get answers to these questions and many others in the latest episode of The Sidley Podcast. Podcast host and Sidley partner Sam Gandhi speaks with Lilya Tessler, a partner in the firm’s New York office, who focuses her practice on the corporate and regulatory aspects of blockchain technology.
On February 6, 2020, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) Commissioner Hester M. Peirce (Commissioner Peirce) gave a speech describing the need for more clarity on application of the securities laws to the offer and sale of blockchain tokens or digital assets. As part of the speech, she proposed a safe harbor (Proposal or Safe Harbor) exempting certain tokens from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), including an exemption for persons engaging in certain transactions with respect to such tokens from the definitions of “exchange,” “broker” and “dealer” under the Exchange Act. The Proposal is of significance to any existing or future blockchain development team considering the distribution of tokens, as well as any digital asset exchange or over-the-counter desk that facilitates transactions in digital assets, blockchain tokens or virtual currencies.