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Enforcement

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On December 18, 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had settled charges against blockchain technology company Blockchain of Things Inc. (BCOT) for conducting an unregistered initial coin offering of digital tokens. According to the SEC’s Order, BCOT raised nearly $13 million to develop and implement its business plans, including developing its blockchain-based technology and platform.  As noted in the SEC’s Order, BCOT explained that its platform was intended to allow third-party…

On February 20, 2019 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) reached a settlement with Gladius Network LLC for conducting an unregistered initial coin offering (“ICO”), which the company self-reported to the SEC. In July 2017, Gladius’s founders began developing a network in which participants could rent spare bandwidth and storage space on their computers and servers to others for use in defense against certain types of cyberattacks and to enhance their content delivery speed.…

On December 17 we published an article in Law360 describing the SEC’s busy November in which it secured three “firsts” in its crackdown on unlawful digital activity: (1) its first enforcement action against an entity for operating as an unregulated national securities exchange; (2) its first cases imposing civil penalties solely for ICO securities offering registration violations; and (3) its first cases charging touting violations involving ICOs.  By highlighting its own “firsts,” the SEC was…

LabCFTC, the FinTech engagement arm of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), this week released a primer on smart contracts that provides examples of contract logic, describes a decentralized blockchain, and details applications.  The primer also highlights potential operational and regulatory challenges and risks. The primer acknowledges that a smart contract potentially can be a binding legal contract subject to a variety of legal frameworks. Among them are the CFTC, federal and state securities, tax,…

On November 8, the SEC settled charges against Zachary Coburn, the founder of EtherDelta, a digital token trading platform.  This is the SEC’s first enforcement action against an entity for operating as an unregulated national securities exchange.  Mr. Coburn consented to the SEC’s order and agreed to pay $300,000 in disgorgement, $13,000 in prejudgment interest, and a $75,000 penalty. In its order, the SEC concluded that EtherDelta’s trading system met the definition of “exchange” under…

Texas has been one of the more active US states in combating fraudulent ICOs and cryptocurrency scams.  Earlier this week it took three separate actions. According to the Emergency Cease and Desist Order, Coins Miner Investment Ltd. manipulates its email solicitations to make them appear as if they came from Coinbase, a well-known San Francisco-based online cryptocurrency platform.  Ana Julia Lara, a person affiliated with Coins Miner, falsely claims to work at Coinbase as a cryptocurrency…

On Tuesday, September 11, a New York Federal Judge rejected a defendant’s argument that he cannot be prosecuted because the digital coins he sold were not securities. Maksim Zaslavskiy is accused of making materially false and fraudulent representations in connection with two investment schemes and ICOs for REcoin Group Foundation, LLC (“REcoin”) and DRC World, Inc. (“Diamond”).  Zaslavskiy claimed that REcoin and Diamond did not involve securities and were therefore beyond the reach of the…

On Tuesday, September 11, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) took its first disciplinary action against an industry professional, charging a broker, Timothy Tilton Ayre, with securities fraud and the unlawful distribution of an unregistered cryptocurrency security, HempCoin. FINRA’s complaint alleges that Ayre attempted to lure public investment in his public company, Rocky Mountain Ayre, Inc., by issuing and selling HempCoin.  Ayre made a host of fraudulent statements about his company’s business and finances, as…

On July 2, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged two men with the illegal sale of securities related to UBI Blockchain Internet, Ltd. (“UBIB”).  The SEC alleges that T.J. Jesky and Mark F. DeStefano made approximately USD 1.4 million by selling shares in UBIB over a 10-day period in December 2017 and January 2018.  The sales stopped when the SEC temporarily suspended trading in UBIB stock earlier this year due to concerns about the…

On June 25 U.S. federal Chief Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton issued a Report and Recommendation concluding that Centra Tokens, issued by tech startup Centra Tech, were investment contracts and therefore securities.  There are reports in the press that this is the first time a US court has found that the issuance and sale of tokens through an ICO must comply with federal securities laws. The case in question, Rensel v. Centra Tech, Inc., is a…