The SEC is well known for, and often criticized for, its practice of regulation by enforcement. In recent years the SEC has been more willing to regulate by enforcement, propounding novel and new interpretations to longstanding rules and regulations. Market participants have taken notice, and offense. Advocacy groups have been very vocal against the practice including the Financial Services Institute and Small Public Company Coalition (SPCC).
Although not limited to matters involving cryptocurrencies, blockchain and all things Web3, is the area that garners the most attention for the SEC’s enforcement-based guidance, probably because it is undeniably the topic that is in the most need of actual rule-based regulation. Starting with the SEC’s 2017 Section 21(a) Report stemming from the enforcement action against the DAO, Slock.it (see HERE), almost all substantive regulatory prescription related to the world of crypto has come from enforcement actions.
Rather than heed the calls for rules and regulations over the years, the SEC has
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