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.
Many nations are increasingly attempting to regulate Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. Increased regulation could help legitimize the currency, but uncertainties about what regulation lies ahead threatens the value of the currencies. A main driver of the increased value of cryptocurrencies is the potential for increased usage in markets globally and greater integration of them into our economy. Regulation may be essential to successfully enabling such integration, because with instability in trade and valuation of the currency it is hard for consumers to know whether they should be spending the currency, or if it will dramatically change in value over the course of a short time period.
Under Rule 506 of Regulation D (“Reg D”), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) exempts companies making private placements to accredited investors from all federal and state securities registration requirements. As a federal safe harbor, Rule 506 of Regulation D preempts all conflicting state securities regulations, but reserves the states’ rights to require issuers to make notice filings, and to investigate and prosecute securities fraud under state securities laws, commonly known as “Blue Sky Laws.” On its face, Rule 506 of Reg D creates a more efficient securities marketplace. However, the historical lack of consequences for non-compliance at the federal level, combined with inconsistent state notice requirements for using exemptions, further complicates an already over-regulated securities marketplace.
In September 2017, United States economic markets implemented swap-regulating rules to reduce risk to U.S. investment firms. Signed into law in 2016, this regulation curbs the risk associated with swap derivatives in the United States. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “Agencies”), constructed a joint rule requiring taxpayer-insured banks and financial institutions to collect greater collateral and provide greater transparency when involved in swap derivative agreements.