Is it a security or is it a utility, currency, commodity or some other digital asset? That question has been continuously raised by those working with digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, virtual coins and tokens, including by digital asset issuers and companies that run platforms for the issuance or trading of such digital assets. Although the first and easy answer is that if a digital asset is being issued today, it is most assuredly a security upon issuance that needs to comply with the federal securities laws, the answer is not always that straightforward for digital assets that have been in the marketplace for a period of time, such as bitcoin and ether, or for new digital assets that are carefully being constructed to fall outside the purview of a securitized token.
On February 6, 2018, the United States Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs (“Banking Committee”) held a hearing on “Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.” Both SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo testified and provided written testimony. The marketplace as a whole had a positive reaction to the testimony, with Bitcoin prices immediately jumping up by over $1600. This blog reviews the testimony and provides my usual commentary.
The SEC and CFTC Share Joint Regulatory Oversight
The Banking Committee hearing follows SEC and CFTC joint statements on January 19, 2018 and a joint op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal published on January 25, 2018 (see HERE). As with other areas in capital markets, such as swaps, the SEC and CFTC have joint regulatory oversight over cryptocurrencies. Where the SEC regulates securities and securities markets, the CFTC
ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100
Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. In my blogs I often refer to the registration and exemption requirements in the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). Section 5 of the Securities Act makes it unlawful to offer or sell any security unless a registration statement is in effect as to that security or there is an available exemption from registration. Similarly, I often refer to the broker-dealer registration requirements. To be a “broker” or “dealer,” a person must be engaged in the business of effecting transactions in securities.
In today’s small cap world corporate finance transactions often take the form of a convertible note and/or options and warrants, the conversion of which relies on Section 3(a)(9) of the Securities Act. Section 3(a)(9) is an exemption available for the exchange of one security for another (such as a convertible note for common stock). Likewise, Rule 144(d)(3)(i) allows the tacking of