This October, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an emergency action and obtained a temporary restraining order in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against two offshore entities, Telegram Group Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, TON Issuer Inc. The SEC’s complaint asserted that the two offshore entities were conducting an unregistered offering of securities in the form of digital tokens in the United States and overseas, raising $1.7 billion to finance the businesses, including the development of its own blockchain the “Telegram Open Network” or “TON Blockchain.”
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to consider whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has the authority to obtain disgorgement in district court actions. Disgorgement is the repayment of “ill-gotten gains” imposed as a court sanction to recover funds that were received through illegal or unethical business transactions. These recovered or disgorged funds are paid back with interest to those who the practice affected. Each year, the SEC obtains billions of dollars in disgorgement, so an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court could eliminate one of the SEC’s most important remedies for securities violations. In 2018, for example, the agency returned $794 million to harmed investors.
Although the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown has ended, agencies forced to furlough employees and shutter temporarily are still facing the effects of the funding gap. On January 25th, President Trump agreed to sign a continuing resolution that will reopen and fund the federal government through February 15th. The government reboot means that the roughly 800,000 federal employees furloughed or forced to work without pay should expect to receive their back pay soon, but the thirty-five-day suspension of government functions comes with significant aftershock. While various regulatory agencies scramble to address their backlog of work, life for Americans who interact with these agencies has been hindered indefinitely.
Both the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Labor (DOL) are pushing ahead with fiduciary standards for investment advisers despite the 5th Circuit striking down the DOL’s previous fiduciary rule earlier this year.
In the age of digitization, data seems less secure than ever. Public companies constantly attempt to safeguard both personal and financial data, yet their efforts fail due to new outbreaks of malicious encryption viruses and persistent email phishing attempts. Data breaches and cyber fraud carry severe financial implications for public companies who fall victim to these types of attacks. But a new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) report says that public companies that are easy targets of cyber scams could also be in violation of federal securities laws and accounting regulations that call for firms to safeguard their assets. Although the SEC has issued its warning to public companies about the compliance and financial risks posed by cyber fraud, many companies are still struggling to implement effective protections against newly-evolved forms of cyber-attacks.
On September 11, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced two enforcement actions relating to failures to register by market intermediaries in connection with digital asset activities. Despite earlier suggestions that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) might be the primary self-regulatory organization (SRO) regulating this market, the main takeaway from these cases is that market intermediaries dealing in digital assets may also have registration and customer protection liabilities, and the failure to observe them can result in serious penalties.
On September 27, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint, alleging Tesla CEO and Chairman, Elon Musk, committed stock market fraud by misleading investors. The matter was resolved through settlement and later approved by a judge. It is hoped that the settlement will prevent Tesla and Musk from causing future market disruption and harm to shareholders.
On March 6th, 2018 the. District Court for the Eastern District of New York upheld the classification of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, as commodities. The ruling subjects the cryptocurrencies to the regulation of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
For the first time since 2013, on Saturday, January 20th, 2018, the U.S. government ran out of money when Congress failed to pass a spending bill to fund the federal government. Much of the federal government’s operations have ground to a halt due to the lack of funding. Because Congress is seemingly at an impasse over immigration policy, the shutdown may last several days, if not weeks. In light of Loyola’s upcoming symposium exploring what happens when regulation is not enforced, it is interesting to consider how, in a similar vein, the shutdown affects compliance.
The disclosures of major security breaches in 2017 such as Verizon, Equifax, Uber, the National Security Agency and the Transportation Safety Administration increased consumer concern about the safety of their personal and financial data. These disclosures also contributed to renewed Congressional analysis of data security standards in the financial services sector and review of current federal and state regulatory regimes. Insider cyber threats have become security remains a threat as well. In August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced insider trading charges against seven individuals who gained access to confidential merger and acquisition data through a technology consultant’s misuse of an investment bank’s new computer system. State actions, governmental agencies and the financial services industry are actively combatting the growth of cyber-security threats.