SEC Divisions’ Issue Public Statement on Digital Assets and ICOs, Echoing Recent Enforcement Actions

Guest post by  – Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp. Fin.”), Division of Investment Management, and Division of Trading and Markets issued a joint public statement on “Digital Asset Securities Issuance and Trading.”  The public statement is the latest in the Divisions’—and the Commission’s—steady efforts to publicly outline and develop its analysis on the application of the federal securities laws to initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) and certain digital tokens.  These efforts have combined a series of enforcement proceedings with public statements by Chairman Jay Clayton and staff, including a more detailed statement of the SEC’s analytical approach in Corp. Fin. Director William Hinman’s speech on digital assets in June 2018.

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Broker-Dealer and Investment Adviser Agrees to Settle SEC Enforcement Action Arising From a Data Security Incident

Guest post by William R. Daugherty and John Busch, Baker & Hostetler LLP

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced a consent order settling an enforcement action brought by the SEC against Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (VFA) in connection with a data security incident that occurred in 2016. VFA is a registered broker-dealer and investment adviser with the SEC. The order memorializes the SEC’s agreement to accept $1 million in settlement of the charges alleging that VFA violated both the SEC’s “Safeguards Rule” and “Identify Theft Red Flags Rule.” This was the SEC’s first enforcement action under the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule.

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Takeaways from SEC’s First Ever Enforcement Actions Against Cryptocurrency Firms for Failing to Register as a Broker-Dealer and Investment Company

Guest post by Michael S. Dicke and Alexis I. Caloza of Fenwick & West LLP

Over the past year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has ramped up its scrutiny of cryptocurrencies and other digital token offerings. On Sept. 11, 2018, the SEC escalated its crackdown when it announced a pair of settled enforcement actions against non-issuers participating in the offer and sale of cryptocurrencies it deemed unregistered securities. As with prior cryptocurrency cases, the SEC charged the defendants with offering or selling securities without filing a registration statement or having a valid exemption from registration. However, these cases mark the SEC’s first cryptocurrency enforcement actions against non-issuers for failing to register as broker-dealers and investment companies. As such, they highlight the SEC’s continuing efforts to bring the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies within a regulated framework, including by targeting third parties who facilitate the purchase and sale of such assets.

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In the Matter of Tomahawk Exploration LLC: No Such Thing as a Free Launch

Guest post by Daniel Nathan and Angelo Aratan, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

The issuance of digital tokens in exchange for services rather than money still can constitute an offering of securities, according to findings recently made by the Securities and Exchange Commission in a settled enforcement action, In the Matter of Tomahawk Exploration LLC and David Thompson Laurance, Securities Act Rel. No. 33-10530, Exchange Act Rel. No. 34-83839, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18641 (Aug. 14, 2018). Tomahawk Exploration LLC offered and distributed digital assets in the form of tokens called “Tomahawkcoins,” or “TOM tokens” through an initial coin offering (“ICO”). The company offered a “Bounty Program,” whereby Tomahawk dedicated 200,000 TOM tokens to pay third parties, offering between 10 and 4,000 TOM tokens in exchange for the following activities:

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Completing A Name Change Without Shareholder Approval

Guest Post by Laura Anthony, Esq – Legal & Compliance, LLC

Generally a name change is completed through an amendment to a company’s articles of incorporation.  Moreover, amendments to articles of incorporation generally require shareholder consent, which can be time-consuming and expensive and become even more so if the company is subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

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PE and VC Funds Suggested Responses to SEC Staff Comments

Joseph W. Bartlett

Andrew Bowden, Director, Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, gave a speech, May 6, 2014, on fund conflicts (https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2014–spch05062014ab.html).  The members of the Fund Foundation Bar all snapped to attention and saluted.  Herewith a sample conflict policy for a venture capital fund and an Appendix to cover many of Bowden’s points.

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