Photo of Alexis Collins

Alexis Collins’ practice focuses on litigation, including criminal and regulatory enforcement matters and complex civil and antitrust litigation.

On January 25, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court held in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corporation that plaintiffs are not required to allege actual harm in order to seek damages against private entities under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).  BIPA regulates companies’ collection, retention, and disclosure of biometric identifiers.  It further provides a private right of action for persons “aggrieved” by a violation of the Act for recovery of liquidated damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and costs.  By allowing suits for technical violations of BIPA’s notice and consent provision to go forward, the Rosenbach decision will likely encourage the filing of new cases under the Act and may influence the interpretation of data privacy laws in other states. Continue Reading Illinois Supreme Court Rules Plaintiffs Are Not Required to Allege Actual Injury to Sue Under the Biometric Information Privacy Act

In 2018, data privacy and cyber breaches made headlines throughout the year.

Major companies continued to suffer data breaches, highlighting the risks and potential costs of cyber incidents across industries.  At the same time, a growing and overlapping thicket of data security and privacy regulations—within the U.S., European Union, Latin America, and elsewhere—continued to increase compliance costs and regulatory risks.  This memo surveys some of the key cybersecurity and data privacy developments of 2018, including the major data breaches and cyberattacks, regulatory and legislative actions, and notable settlements and court decisions.

In addition, we identify some key takeaways from 2018, which include the importance of rapid response and timely disclosure, cyber diligence in M&A transactions, effective management of third-party vendor risk, and protecting privilege.  We also highlight key areas to watch in 2019, including GDPR enforcement, efforts to pass a U.S. federal privacy law, responses and potential changes to California’s new privacy law, the adoption of comprehensive privacy laws in more U.S. states and non-U.S. jurisdictions, and heightened U.S. litigation and enforcement risk.  Data security and privacy will undoubtedly remain a priority for boards and senior management, as well as regulators and enforcement authorities.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On January 7, 2019 the National Futures Association (“NFA”) provided additional guidance on the required cybersecurity practices of certain NFA members by amending its Interpretive Notice entitled NFA Compliance Rules 2-9, 2-36 and 2-49: Information Systems Security Programs (the “Interpretive Notice”).  The Interpretive Notice currently requires each NFA member futures commission merchant (“FCM”), commodity trading advisor, commodity pool operator, introducing broker (“IB”), retail foreign exchange dealer, swap dealer (“SD”) and major swap participant to implement a written information systems security program (“ISSP”) and enact other cybersecurity procedures sufficient to identify, address and respond to cybersecurity incidents.  The amendments to the Interpretive Notice are informed by NFA examinations of member ISSPs since the Interpretive Notice became effective in March 2016.  They are intended to clarify certain common questions posed by NFA members related to internal approvals of the ISSP and employee training.  The amendments additionally impose a new notification requirement for specified cybersecurity incidents. Continue Reading NFA Amends Interpretive Notice Regarding Cybersecurity Programs

On December 20, 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) released a Report on Selected Cybersecurity Practices for broker-dealer firms.  This report reflects FINRA’s current perspective on the cybersecurity threat landscape based on observations from its examinations of securities firms.  Below we discuss the report’s key observations and contextualize these insights for members of the financial industry. Continue Reading FINRA Provides Updated Cybersecurity Guidance to Broker-Dealer Firms

On December 13, 2018, the District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a putative securities class action brought against PayPal Holdings, its subsidiary TIO Networks Corp., and several executives of both companies for a security breach that resulted in the potential compromise of personally identifiable information for 1.6 million customers.  In Sgarlata v. PayPal Holdings Inc., No. 17-cv-06956-EMC, 2018 WL 6592771 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 13, 2018) (“Sgarlata”), the court dismissed the complaint for failure to plead scienter because plaintiffs failed to adequately plead that defendants knew not only of an actual security breach, but also the magnitude of the breach and the type of data accessed.[1] Continue Reading California District Court Dismisses Securities Class Action After Plaintiffs Failed to Plead that PayPal Knew Magnitude of Security Breach

On December 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released its 2019 Examination Priorities.  The six themes for this year’s priorities are:  retail investors (including seniors and those saving for retirement), compliance and risk in registrants responsible for critical market infrastructure (clearing agencies, transfer agents, national securities exchanges and Regulation SCI entities), oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, digital assets, cybersecurity and anti-money laundering.  The only new theme for 2019 compared to 2018 is digital assets, which we take to imply a plan to more closely—and substantively—regulate investment advisers and broker-dealers involved with this asset class.  The 2019 priorities also more explicitly than the 2018 priorities describe specific practices that OCIE found concerning in examinations of those entities, many of which involved failure to adequately safeguard client assets and the adequacy of disclosures of conflicts of interest.  We expect to see a corresponding focus in Enforcement Division investigations and cases on these issues as a result. Continue Reading Lessons from the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations’ 2019 Priorities

On November 27, 2018, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security held an oversight hearing of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.  The hearing marked the first appearance before the Senate of the full slate of current FTC commissioners: Republicans Chairman Joe Simons, Noah Phillips, and Christine Wilson, and Democrats Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Slaughter.  In addition to confirming that the FTC will continue to prioritize data security and privacy enforcement under its consumer protection mandate, the commissioners were unanimous in their support for comprehensive federal data privacy legislation to be enforced by the FTC.  Each, however, offered slightly different views as to the right approach for potential legislation and future enforcement. Continue Reading FTC Chair, Commissioners Endorse Comprehensive Privacy Legislation at Senate Oversight Hearing

On November 28, 2018, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California denied the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Blockvest, LLC and Reginald Ringgold in connection with Defendants’ initial coin offering (“ICO”).  In doing so, the court found disputed issues of fact existed regarding whether the so-called “BLV” tokens constituted “securities” under the test set out in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co.[1]  This is not the first time a court has characterized the question of whether an ICO token satisfies Howey’s requirements as a factual one.[2]  But, the decision is notable for being the first instance of a court ruling against the SEC in an ICO and because it focused its inquiry under Howey on the subjective understanding of particular investors rather than the objective characteristics of the tokens themselves. Continue Reading California District Court Denies SEC Preliminary Injunction in ICO Case, Says Tokens’ Status As Securities Is Question of Fact

On November 28, 2018, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) identified for the first time digital currency addresses associated with sanctioned persons.  The newly sanctioned individuals, Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, were accused of converting digital currency payments into Iranian rial as part of a widespread ransomware scheme.  Since 2015, the ransomware scheme (known as “SamSam”) has infected the data networks of corporations, hospitals, universities, and government agencies.  According to OFAC’s announcement, the identified bitcoin addresses were used with over 40 digital currency exchangers to process more than 7,000 illicit transactions in bitcoins worth millions of U.S. dollars. Continue Reading OFAC Lists Digital Currency Addresses for First Time, Releases New Guidance

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp. Fin.”), Division of Investment Management, and Division of Trading and Markets issued a joint public statement on “Digital Asset Securities Issuance and Trading.”  The public statement is the latest in the Divisions’—and the Commission’s—steady efforts to publicly outline and develop its analysis on the application of the federal securities laws to initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) and certain digital tokens.  These efforts have combined a series of enforcement proceedings with public statements by Chairman Jay Clayton and staff, including a more detailed statement of the SEC’s analytical approach in Corp. Fin. Director William Hinman’s speech on digital assets in June 2018. Continue Reading SEC Divisions’ Issue Public Statement on Digital Assets and ICOs, Echoing Recent Enforcement Actions