Metamorphosis: Digital Assets and the U.S. Securities Laws
Conference Report – Blockchain and the Law: Towards a Responsible Blockchain Sector
Regtech Earns a Name
Bitcoin operators exposed to cyber threats

Metamorphosis: Digital Assets and the U.S. Securities Laws

By Robert M. Crea, Anthony R.G. Nolan and Eden L. Rohrer

In the past year, the U.S Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Chairman Jay Clayton have repeatedly cautioned the cryptocurrency and initial coin offering (“ICO”) industries about the securities law implications for digital assets.  On February 6, 2018, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Chairman Clayton notably asserted that “[e]very ICO I’ve seen is a security.”

However, on June 14, 2018, William Hinman, the SEC’s Director of the Division of Corporation Finance, stated that, putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, “current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions.”  This statement was based on a novel theory of evolving decentralization that may very well have significant ramifications for cryptocurrency and ICO markets.

Please see our latest K&L Gates HUB article for a discussion about the context and implications for Director Hinman’s conclusions surrounding Ether.  It also analyses the specific factors he suggests weighing in determining whether a given digital asset is a security.

Conference Report – Blockchain and the Law: Towards a Responsible Blockchain Sector

By Anthony R. G. Nolan and Julien E. F. Barbey

On June 14, Cardozo Law School in New York City held a conference entitled “Blockchain and the Law: Towards a Responsible Blockchain Sector.”  The conference was led by a panel consisting of current and former commissioners and staff members of the SEC and the CFTC including Rob Cohen, director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

Among topics discussed was SEC Director William Hinman’s recent speech in which he stated that Ethereum is not a security.  Panelists suggested this may indicate that the SEC would regard a token as being able to change its character over time, such that a token that was once a security can morph into one that is not a security.   This would have important implications for market practices, potentially including the utility of SAFTs.

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Regtech Earns a Name

By Susan Altman

Technology solutions for bank regulatory requirements have been around for decades, but their soaring popularity has led to them earning their own nickname within the fintech world: they’re now “regtech” solutions, according to a new report issued by Bain & Co. in the American Banker.  Regtech products are designed to benefit banks’ efforts to comply with growing regulatory burdens and improve internal governance controls.  Bain estimates that governance, risk and compliance costs account for 15% to 20% of the total “run the bank” cost base of most major banks.  It’s no small wonder that banks are struggling to devise a robust and efficient approach to compliance and are outsourcing the implementation and hosting of advanced compliance tools with nimble regtech-focused outside vendors.  Bain has identified more than 80 emerging regtechs that extract and structure data, integrate data from banks’ proprietary systems, third-party data providers and public sources, and crunch the data in automated, scalable ways.  Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, continuously improves the quality, precision and reliability of the insights that emerge.

Bain predicts that banks’ relationships with regtechs will be significantly shaped by regulators, in the form of governance, risk and compliance standards and approval of proposed solutions. As new requirements go into effect, banks will need to continuously assess the level of functionality, complexity and efficiency of current technology, systems and data.  And did we mention, this all has to be done in a very secure environment?

Bitcoin operators exposed to cyber threats

By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Murray

Reuters has reported that a third of bitcoin trading platforms have been hacked, and nearly half have closed since they entered the scene 6 years ago. This increasing risk for bitcoin holders is compounded by the fact there is no depositor’s insurance to absorb the loss. That approach heightens cybersecurity risks and also exposes the fact that bitcoin investors have little choice but to do business with under-capitalized exchanges.

This issue was evident when Bitfinex was hacked earlier this month and an estimated $70 million in bitcoin was stolen. The virtual bank’s customers were forced to share the losses resulting in a generalized loss percentage of 36.067%. Read our blog post on this hacking here.

Experts say trading venues acting like banks such as Bitfinex will remain vulnerable. These exchanges act as custodial wallets in which they control users’ digital currencies like banks control customer deposits. However, unlike their brick-and-mortar counterparts, when customers’ bitcoin accounts are hacked, there is currently no third party that can step in to deal with the theft. As a result, these underfunded exchanges require nearly perfect security.

Given this it is not surprising that certain governments around the world are exploring the possibility of central bank issued digital currencies using distributed ledger technology which could compete with the private digital currency systems such as bitcoin. Read more on this here.

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