On December 20, 2018, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) released its report (the 2019 Report) setting forth its list of examination priorities for 2019 (the Exam Priorities).1 OCIE announces its exam priorities annually to provide insights into the areas it believes present potentially heightened risk to investors or the integrity of the U.S. capital markets.2 The Exam Priorities can serve as a roadmap to assist advisers in assessing their policies, procedures and compliance programs; testing for and remediating any suspected deficiencies related to the Exam Priorities; and preparing for OCIE exams. (more…)
*This article was originally published by DataGuidance in October 2018.
On 6 September 2018, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (‘MAS’) issued a consultation paper on its draft notice on cyber hygiene (‘the Notice’) which will require financial institutions operating in Singapore to implement a set of fundamental controls to raise their overall level of cyber resilience. Han Ming Ho and Yuet Ming Tham, partners at Sidley, discuss and focus on the key features of the draft Notice.
On November 16, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced its first enforcement actions against issuers of initial coin offerings solely for failing to register the offerings in violation of the federal securities laws since Munchee (i.e., without allegations of fraud). Unlike the Munchee order, these settlements impose penalties against the issuers and require certain undertakings, such as registering the digital assets as securities under the Exchange Act. The same day, the SEC’s Divisions of Corporation Finance, Investment Management and Trading and Markets released a joint statement reiterating the SEC’s lessons from recent enforcement actions related to digital assets. (more…)
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) initiating a 30-day public comment process regarding export controls for certain emerging technologies. The notice launches the implementation of a key provision of the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA), part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 (NDAA). In the ECRA, Congress authorized BIS to establish controls on the export, reexport and transfer (in country) of “emerging and foundational technologies.” The ANPRM, including a list of the 14 proposed representative technology categories and subcategories subject to review, can be found here. Our prior updates on the NDAA and ECRA can be found here.
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…)