On November 1, 2018, following a rising tide of speculation, the Hong Kong regulator Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) announced a series of initiatives to regulate digital assets for the first time (and, apparently, without the need for any kind of legislative approval or backing). The initiatives, discussed below, take effect immediately. For purposes of the new regime, the SFC refers to “virtual assets” broadly defined to include initial coin offerings (ICOs), digital tokens (such as digital currencies, utility tokens or security or asset-backed tokens) and any other virtual commodities, cryptoassets and other assets of essentially the same nature (together “digital assets” herein as commonly understood in the industry). (more…)
On October 3, 2018, the European Parliament passed its long awaited resolution on distributed ledger technologies and blockchains (the “Blockchain Resolution”). The Blockchain Resolution was adopted to protect and empower EU citizens and businesses with respect to the specific issues that arise in relation to the blockchain or “distributed ledger” technology, one of which being the tension with data protection rights and the GDPR in general. (more…)
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…)
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.
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. (more…)
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:
- 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).
- On August 28, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) released an update on the progress of its ongoing Operation Cryptosweep.
- The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued two investor alerts, on July 27 and August 16, regarding blockchain tokens and ICOs.
On August 7, a group of regulators from 11 jurisdictions published a consultation (the Consultation) on the Global Financial Innovation Network (the GFIN), which aims to promote international cooperation on innovation and the use of technology in financial services (FinTech) and in regulatory processes (RegTech).
The group — which includes the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA), the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) — is one of the first major collaborative efforts on FinTech and RegTech issues among regulators in developed financial services markets. The Consultation builds on the FCA’s proposal earlier this year to create a “global sandbox” for innovative financial services firms.
This post summarizes the proposed role of the GFIN, the issues on which its founding regulators are consulting and how these may affect financial services firms.
On Feb. 13, 2018, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a Consultation Paper on the Proposed E-Payments User Protection Guidelines (Consultation Paper). Under the Consultation Paper, the MAS proposes to issue a set of guidelines (Guidelines) to standardize the protection offered to individuals or micro-enterprises from losses arising from unauthorized or mistaken payment transactions.
The Guidelines are part of MAS’s ongoing review of Singapore’s regulatory framework for payment services. They are meant to provide general guidance and are not intended to be comprehensive or to replace or override any legislation.
As the FinTech industry continues to expand, regulators around the globe are starting to react. The past 18 months have seen the emergence of a new trend in financial services regulation, the “sandbox.”
Since the launch of the UK’s regulatory sandbox in May 2016, regulators across the globe have adopted similar frameworks. There are now regulatory sandboxes in Abu Dhabi, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Singapore, Switzerland and Thailand, to name a few, and the European Union recently set out proposals for a possible EU-wide regulatory sandbox. (more…)