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

Last Friday, December 1, 2017, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that three futures exchanges—the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. (CME), the CBOE Futures Exchange (CBOE) and the Cantor Exchange (Cantor)—self-certified that they will be listing futures contracts (CME and CBOE) and options (Cantor) referencing bitcoin.  Trading in bitcoin futures will commence at the CBOE on December 10 and on CME on December 18, with Cantor’s options trading to follow.  Listing these contracts will allow both institutional and retail investors to obtain long or short exposure to bitcoin without buying or selling the underlying bitcoin itself. Continue Reading Bitcoin’s Future: CME and Other Exchanges Self-Certify Bitcoin Futures and Options with the CFTC

We were happy to see many of you at our “Blockchain and FinTech Opportunities” conference on Thursday, July 13.

If you were unable to attend or would like to review a recap of the event, key takeaways from the day’s discussions and videos of the panels can be found here.

Please do not hesitate to contact your friends at Cleary Gottlieb regarding any of the matters raised at the conference, and we hope to see you at an event in the near future.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) recently sent a warning to the burgeoning market for initial coin offerings (“ICOs”): assets that exist only on the blockchain may be securities subject to registration, anti-fraud and other requirements under the U.S. federal securities laws.  The outcome of the SEC’s analysis was unsurprising, representing a reasonably straightforward application of longstanding securities law principles.  However, the SEC’s discussion left several key questions and potential paths forward for ICO issuers and other participants in the ICO marketplace to consider. Continue Reading Open Questions and Potential Paths Forward Following the SEC’s Analysis of Digital Assets as Securities

On December 2, 2016, Comptroller Thomas J. Curry of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) announced that the OCC will move forward with chartering financial technology (“FinTech”) companies that offer bank products and services and meet the OCC’s chartering requirements. However, while encouraging, the announcement, and the OCC paper released with it, left many issues unresolved.

Continue Reading The OCC’s New FinTech National Banking Charter

Overstock.com, Inc. (“Overstock”) recently filed a shelf registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) allowing for the issuance of “digital securities.”[1]  The SEC declared that registration statement effective on December 9, 2015.   The digital securities described in Overstock’s registration statement will be evidenced only by entry into a publicly distributed ledger and transfers of the digital securities can only be effected on that ledger.  They will not be evidenced by physical certificates or notes, recorded in book-entry system of the type typically used by issuers and transfer agents today, traded through a traditional securities exchange or cleared through an established clearing system.    Instead, ownership of digital securities and trades will be reflected in a publicly distributed proprietary ledger maintained by an alternative trading system (“ATS”) run by Pro Securities LLC using the technology of tØ, a subsidiary of Overstock.  In June 2015, Overstock completed the first placement of corporate bonds in the form of digital securities pursuant to Rule 506(c) of Regulation D using the technology of tØ. Continue Reading Bitcoins and Blockchain – The Use of Distributed Ledger Technology for the Issuance of Digital Securities