On September 12, 2023, Gary Gensler gave his annual testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and then on September 27th to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services (for a review of last year’s testimony see HERE). Both appearances included the same prepared remarks followed by robust Q&A from the lawmakers.
This year Chair Gensler’s prepared remarks focused on: (i) rule amendments and updates; (ii) improving efficiency in equity markets; (iii) disclosure matters and related enforcement including related to cryptocurrency; and (iv) general updates on the SEC and capital markets.
We shouldn’t expect the busy SEC rule making agenda to slow down any time soon. Chair Gensler prioritizes updating rules for technology, business and market changes. Although Gensler’s speech focuses on rule changes to make the markets more efficient and resilient and lower costs, the reality is that not all rule changes will accomplish
This one has been on my list for a while and I’m finally ready to dive in – non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In July 2017, the world of digital assets and cryptocurrency literally became an overnight business sector for corporate and securities lawyers, shifting from the pure technology sector, when the SEC issued its Section 21(a) Report on the DAO investigation finding that a cryptocurrency is, in most cases, a security HERE. The SEC’s Section 21(a) Report relied on the analysis in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. to determine when a crypto is a security, building the guardrails to conclude that all, or almost all, cryptocurrencies at that time were/are indeed a security. For more on the Howey analysis, see HERE.
Later in June 2018, the SEC gave some relief to the crypto world by announcing that Bitcoin and Ether were likely decentralized enough as to no longer be considered a security, hedging on the conclusion as
After a few years of relative dormancy, the SEC is once again targeting the flourishing cryptocurrency market. On August 3, 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler gave a speech to the Aspen Security Forum in which he referred to the cryptocurrency marketplace as the Wild West. Days later, the SEC filed its first case involving securities using DeFi technology and then a few days after that, reached a $10 million settlement with Poloniex for operating an unregistered digital asset exchange. Shortly after that, the SEC took aim at Coinbase’s planned crypto lending program causing the crypto giant to shelf the business model for the time being. SEC Commissioners are joining in, giving speeches in various forums focused on crypto and the regulatory environment.
In July 2017, the world of digital assets and cryptocurrency literally became an overnight business sector for corporate and securities lawyers, shifting from the pure technology sector, when the SEC issued its Section 21(a) Report on
On October 11, 2019 the SEC, FinCEN and CFTC issued a joint statement on activities involving digital assets. Various agencies have been consistently working together, with overlapping jurisdiction, on matters involving digital assets and distributed ledger technology. Earlier, in August, the SEC and FINRA issued a joint statement on the custody of digital assets, including as it relates to broker-dealers and investment advisors (see HERE).
The purpose of the joint statement is to remind persons engaged in activities involving digital assets of their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). AML/CFT obligations apply to entities that the BSA defines as “financial institutions,” such as futures commission merchants and introducing brokers obligated to register with the CFTC, money services businesses (MSBs) as defined by FinCEN (for more information on MSBs see HERE), and broker-dealers and mutual funds obligated to register
On April 3, 2019, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance published a “Framework for Investment Contract Analysis of Digital Assets,” issued a No-Action Letter to Turnkey Jet, Inc. and made a statement on both. Although all guidance is appreciated, there is really nothing new or different about the analysis, which is firmly based on SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. (the “Howey Test”). Moreover, as discussed below, even though the SEC found that Turnkey Jet did not need to comply with the federal securities laws in the issuance and sales of its tokens, the opinion and issued guidelines do not go far enough and still leave a great deal of uncertainty.
Framework for Investment Contract Analysis of Digital Assets
The SEC’s framework sets forth facts and circumstances to be considered in applying the Howey Test to determine if a digital asset is an investment contract and thus a security subject to state and federal securities laws in its
This summer, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a report to President Trump entitled “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities; Nonbank Financials, Fintech and Innovation” (the “Treasury Report”). The Treasury Report was issued in response to an executive order dated February 3, 2017 which has resulted in a series of such reports. The executive order identified Core Principles and requested the Treasury Department to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system in a manner consistent with the Core Principles. In response to its directive, the Treasury Department is issuing four reports. For a summary of the Treasury Department Report on Capital Markets, see HERE.
The Core Principles identified in the executive order are:
- Empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
- Prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
- Foster economic growth and vibrant