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

On November 6-8, 2018, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) hosted a public hearing on “Privacy, Big Data, and Competition.”  The event was part of a series of public hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, modeled after the agency’s 1995 “Pitofsky Hearings.”  The series solicits input from a wide variety of private and public sector stakeholders and academics to inform and guide the FTC’s regulatory and enforcement efforts in light of broad economic changes, evolving business practices, new technologies, and international developments.
Continue Reading Consumer Protection and Antitrust Regulators, Experts Discuss Privacy, Big Data, and Competition at FTC Hearings

On September 26, 2018, a federal court in the District of Massachusetts found that virtual currencies are a commodity under the Commodity Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1 et seq, (“CEA”). This marks the second time that a court has accepted the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (“CFTC”) position and upheld the agency’s authority to regulate unleveraged and unmargined spot transactions in virtual currency under the agency’s anti-fraud and manipulation enforcement authority.  Most notably, however, the reasoning behind its decision potentially expands the scope of the CFTC’s oversight of the market.
Continue Reading Second District Court Determines Virtual Currencies Are Commodities

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has provided Facebook with a Notice of Intent to issue a monetary penalty against the social media platform for its lack of transparency and failure to maintain the security of its users’ personal data in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The ICO’s fine is the maximum possible under the Data Protection Act 1998 (the UK implementing legislation for the former EU data protection regime under the Data Protection Directive). Facebook will have the opportunity to make representations to the ICO before the ICO’s decision is finalised.

Continue Reading UK Data Protection Regulator Set to Levy Maximum Fine on Facebook in Cambridge Analytica Case

On the heels of the European Union’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and public outcry over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, on June 28, 2018, California enacted the most comprehensive data privacy law to date in the United States. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “CCPA”) was hastily passed by the

Over recent months, numerous state regulators, including in Massachusetts, Texas, and New Jersey, have been exercising greater oversight of cryptocurrency businesses.[1]  On April 17, 2018, the office of the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (“NYAG”) launched the Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative, which will seek information from various platforms that trade cryptocurrencies to better protect consumers.  The initiative responds to concerns that cryptocurrency trading platforms may not provide consumers with the same information available from traditional exchanges.  As part of the initiative, the NYAG’s Investor Protection Bureau sent thirteen major cryptocurrency trading platforms questionnaires relating to internal policies, controls, and best practices.  The Bureau intends to consolidate and disseminate to consumers the information it receives.
Continue Reading New York Attorney General Becomes Most Recent State Regulator To Foray Into Cryptocurrency Oversight

On March 27, 2018, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin announced that the state had ordered five firms to halt initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) on the grounds that the ICOs constituted unregistered offerings of securities but made no allegations of fraud.  These orders follow a growing line of state enforcement actions aimed at ICOs.

This was not Massachusetts’s first foray into regulating ICOs.  On January 17, 2018 the state filed a complaint alleging violations of securities and broker-dealer registration requirements against the company Caviar and its founder for an ICO that sought to create a “pooled investment fund with hedged exposure to crypto-assets and real estate debt.”


Continue Reading Massachusetts Orders Five Companies to Halt ICOs as States Step Up Enforcement Efforts

On January 8, 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) published its 2018 Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter, which provides an overview of particular areas of regulatory focus in the upcoming year.  Under the category of operational and financial risks, FINRA specifically identifies cybersecurity as a high-priority area that member broker-dealer firms “may wish to consider as they identify opportunities to improve their compliance, supervisory and risk management programs” and commends the firms that have already devoted resources to this important area.  The letter notes that FINRA will assess the effectiveness of member firms’ cybersecurity programs at guarding sensitive information (including personally identifiable information) as well as such firms’ cybersecurity preparedness, technical defenses and resiliency measures.  FINRA also reminds member firms that they are required to have policies and procedures in place to evaluate whether a suspicious activity report must be filed with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) upon identification of a cybersecurity incident.  The letter also advises review of the 2017 Report on FINRA Examination Findings for further information about FINRA’s cybersecurity concerns and observations regarding effective cybersecurity practices.
Continue Reading FINRA Announces 2018 Priorities and Issues First-Ever Report on Examination Findings

Following the generally positive assessment of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework (the “Privacy Shield”) by the European Commission further to its first annual review, the Article 29 Working Party (an advisory group consisting of representatives from national data protection authorities together with the European Commission), released its own opinion (the “WP29 Opinion”), which was

On Monday, December 4, 2017, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained an emergency order from a U.S. District Court in New York to enjoin an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering scheme.  The SEC’s complaint alleges that Dominic Lacroix, a recidivist securities law violator, and his company PlexCorps violated the anti-fraud and registration provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws in collecting up to $15 million in investor funds purportedly in exchange for digital tokens and promised returns in excess of 1,000% in 29 days.  The complaint also charges Lacroix’s partner Sabrina Paradis-Royer with securities fraud.  Among other relief, the district court has granted the SEC’s request to freeze the defendants’ assets.

Continue Reading Newly Created SEC Cyber Unit Takes First Action Against Allegedly Fraudulent ICO