On 4 October 2018, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) entered into the ‘Cooperation Arrangement on Financial Technology Innovation’ bilateral agreement (Agreement) with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to cooperate and exchange information in the fintech and regtech industries in each jurisdiction. Broadly, the Agreement seeks to enhance mutual understanding, identify market developments and trends, facilitate fintech innovation and foster the use of more efficient and effective regtech.
Many FinTechs have benefited from government-established regulatory sandboxes in diverse jurisdictions such as Australia, the UK and Singapore. However, the U.S. has been noticeably slow to adapt these innovation-friendly programs. That is now changing.
Arizona recently enacted a new law (H.B. 2434) to create a Regulatory Sandbox Program (the “Program”) that will allow FinTech companies to temporarily test innovative financial products and services without being subject to money transmitter and similar licensing requirements in that state. The Program will be administered by the Arizona Attorney General (the “AG”) and is the first of its kind among U.S. states.
In the US, several attempts at class actions for those affected by a data breach have failed challenges in early procedural stages. In Dieffenbach v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 887 F.3d 826 (7th Cir. Apr. 11, 2018), the Seventh Circuit allowed a data breach class action to survive the pleadings stage. At the same time, the Court indicated that the plaintiffs may have a tough time proving their claims on the merits or establishing that class certification is warranted. At the end of the day, the Dieffenbach decision may prove to be less of a boon and more of a bust for plaintiffs in data breach class actions. Although it may provide a means to get into court, the decision makes clear that obtaining a favorable outcome may be a “difficult task.” For a full summary of the Dieffenbach decision please see our client alert here.
FinCEN’s new beneficial owner rules take effect May 11, impacting banks and the program managers and similar companies that help banks comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, including FinTech companies that provide AML on-boarding and monitoring services. Under the new rules, banks and other covered financial institutions will be required to identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of their legal entity customers. These rules will add to your regulatory burdens, particularly over the next several weeks.
By Cameron Abbott and Sarah Goegan
Technology company IOT Group announced this week that it has signed an Australian first energy and blockchain deal. In the agreement with Hunter Energy, IOT Blockchain will build a blockchain centre at the Redbank coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney.
The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) recently announced that seven states, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, have agreed to a multi-state compact (the Compact) that will standardize certain aspects of the licensing process for money services businesses (MSBs).
In a criminal case in Brooklyn, New York, a federal court has been asked to decide for the first time whether tokens or coins issued through an initial coin offering constitute “securities” under U.S. securities laws.
On September 29, 2017 the SEC filed a civil complaint against Maksim Zaslavskiy, alleging that he had committed securities fraud and sold “illegal unregistered securities.” The instruments at issue were tokens that Zaslavskiy allegedly sold to the public through initial coin offerings of his companies RECoin Group Foundation LLC and DRC World, Inc. The lawsuit followed an investigation that apparently took less than 90 days to conduct, and that involved reviewing social media and online postings. The investigation appears to have been conducted parallel with a criminal investigation by the FBI, and a criminal complaint was filed 28 days after the SEC complaint. The SEC case was stayed pending resolution of the criminal case.
By Dan S Cohen
With unanimous support, the Wyoming House of Representatives passed House Bill 19, which exempts virtual currencies from the state’s money transmission law. HB 19 defines virtual currency as a digital representation of value that is used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, or store of value, and is not recognized by the federal government as legal tender. If enacted, the Wyoming Money Transmitter Act would no longer apply to the buying, selling, issuing, or taking custody of virtual currency, or receiving virtual currency for the purpose of transmitting that currency within or outside of the United States.
The proposed change comes almost two years after Coinbase announced its indefinite suspension of business in the state due to its belief that the Wyoming Division of Banking interpreted the Wyoming Money Transmitter Act to apply to entities offering hosted wallet services. Wyoming would become the first state to completely exempt virtual currency from its money transmitter law if the bill is adopted. To date, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas have issued guidance excluding some but not all virtual currency activities from their respective money transmitter laws.
HB 19 is one of several virtual currency and blockchain-related bills the Wyoming legislature is considering. Bills to exempt “utility tokens” from securities regulation, and to allow companies to store records and accept shareholder votes through blockchain technology are also under consideration. Wyoming political leaders are clearly moving quickly to adapt to the rise of virtual currency and blockchain technology.
The time and expense of applying for state money transmitter licenses can be an incredibly steep barrier to entry for many fintech and cryptocurrency businesses. Seven states—Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington (collectively, “Signatory States”)—have taken an initial step to lower that barrier. They have signed an agreement (“Protocol”) aimed at expediting and simplifying the application process for money services businesses. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”) announced the agreement and indicated other states are expected to join.
On January 25, 2018, the U.S. CFPB announced that it has finalized changes to its sweeping Final Rule governing most general use prepaid accounts, digital wallets and P2P payment programs. These changes have been long anticipated, and include a delay of the Final Rule’s effective date (until April 1, 2019), as well as the following notable features:
Error Resolution and Limited Liability
A major bone of contention for the industry was the fact that provisional re-crediting of claims of unauthorized transactions would be required even if the cardholder had not registered or been verified. Such a requirement would certainly have increased fraud. Under the new amendments, Regulation E’s error resolution and limited liability requirements will not apply until after the consumer identification and verification process has been completed. This new limitation does not apply to payroll cards and government benefit accounts, since these cardholders are usually already known to the issuers.