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 December 6, 2018, in Williams-Diggins v. Mercy Health, an Ohio district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss a putative class action related to a cybersecurity vulnerability in the Ohio-based medical provider’s computer systems that allegedly left patient health information publicly accessible online for years.  United States District Judge Jeffrey Helmick dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction (among other reasons), finding that the plaintiff’s theories of harm—overpayment and risk of future exposure or breach of his sensitive health information—were insufficient to create Article III standing. Continue Reading Ohio District Court: No Standing Where Patients’ Medical Records “Might” Be Accessed Improperly Due To A Cybersecurity Vulnerability

Continuing its efforts to engage with FinTech innovators and market participants in the adoption of new technologies, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and its LabCFTC[1] released a Primer on Smart Contracts (the “Primer”) on November 27. The Commission focused its Primer on (1) detailing the technical aspects of smart contract technology; (2) examining potential benefits and risks connected to their widespread adoption; and (3) the CFTC’s role in regulating the adoption of the technology within those markets under its jurisdiction.

Continue Reading The CFTC Releases Primer on Smart Contract Use in Financial Markets

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

Knuddels GmbH & Co KG, a German social media app, has received the first administrative fine issued by a German supervisory authority under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

The fine of € 20,000 has been levied on Knuddels by the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Baden-Württemberg (one of 16 regional data protection authorities in Germany) following a hack reported by Knuddels in September which resulted in the personal data of approximately 330,000 users being stolen and subsequently published. Such personal data included users’ emails addresses and passwords. Continue Reading First German Fine Issued Under the GDPR

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