Under Siege from the SEC, Steven Seagal Ponies Up to Settle Charges for Promoting an Initial Coin Offering
Steven Seagal just learned the hard way that, unlike the title of his 1988 police action movie, he is not Above the Law. Unfortunately for the prolific action movie star, the SEC took notice of his recent actions and was Out for Justice. In order to avoid a Maximum Conviction, the SEC recently announced that Seagal made the Executive Decision to settle charges brought by the agency related to the actor’s failure to disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation he received for promoting an investment in an initial coin offering (ICO) conducted by Bitcoiin2Gen.
“The definition of ‘commodity’ is broad. Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are encompassed in the definition and properly defined as commodities.” (In re Coinflip, Inc., CFTC No. 15-29 (Sept. 17, 2015)). This has been the view of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) since at least 2015, and the courts increasingly appear to be affirming the Commission’s assertion of jurisdiction over the virtual currency market.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts is the latest court to rule that virtual currencies are commodities, and subject to CFTC jurisdiction. (See CFTC v. My Big Coin Pay, Inc, 1:18-CV-10011-RWZ). In My Big Coin, the district court entered an order holding that the CFTC has the power to prosecute fraud involving virtual currency, even in instances where there is no futures contract over the relevant virtual currency.
A “commodity” as defined in the … Read More »
The National Futures Association (“NFA”) recently proposed an interpretive notice updating disclosure requirements for its members engaged in virtual currency (i.e. cryptocurrency) activities. Self-Regulatory Organizations are increasingly interested in their members’ activities in the emerging virtual currency market, with the NFA’s notice following on the heels of a FINRA Regulatory Notice encouraging its members to self-report their virtual currency activities. (See here for detail on FINRA’s notice).
The apparent catalyst for the NFA’s recent proposal was the launch of bitcoin futures by the CME and CBOE Futures Exchange in December 2017. Concerned that the growth of the market has attracted investors that may not fully appreciate the substantial risk of loss that may rise from trading virtual currencies, and the NFA’s limited regulatory oversight authority, the NFA developed the enhanced disclosure requirements for members.
According to the NFA’s interpretive notice, virtual currencies … Read More »
“I believe every ICO I’ve seen is a security and we have jurisdiction and our federal securities laws apply.” Clayton, J., Testimony, Sen. Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (Feb. 6, 2018). This was SEC Chairman Jay Clayton’s testimony on February 6, 2018 to the Senate Banking Committee in a hearing on the SEC oversight of virtual currencies. The Chair’s sentiments in February were in line with the SEC’s historic approach to asserting jurisdiction over the nascent cryptocurrency marketplace. Beginning as early as 2013, the SEC began issuing investor alerts asserting the Commission’s jurisdiction over cryptocurrencies that functioned as securities. SEC Investor Alert, Ponzi Schemes Using Virtual Currencies, July 1, 2013. This early assertion of jurisdiction has been confirmed through the SEC’s position in the DAO Report, and reinforced through multiple SEC enforcement actions.
Four months after the Chair’s comments before … Read More »
On April 6, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained a court order freezing more than $27 million in proceeds from alleged illegal distributions and sales of restricted shares of a public company, and charged the company, its CEO, and three other affiliated individuals. That same day, the Nasdaq Stock Market said it halted trading in the company’s stock. The SEC’s complaint alleges that shortly after the company began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market and announced the acquisition of a purported blockchain-empowered cryptocurrency business that its stock price rose dramatically until its market capitalization exceeded $3 billion. The SEC further alleges that the CEO and the three other individual defendants then illegally sold large blocks of their restricted shares to the public while the stock price was excessively elevated and that they collectively reaped more than $27 million … Read More »