In October 2021, the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase released a proposal for a regulatory framework that would designate a single regulator for the digital asset markets. This proposal comes less than a month after Coinbase’s CEO had a public meltdown on Twitter after the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) sent the firm a Wells Notice, a warning of potential litigation, about their planned cryptocurrency lending platform allegedly violating securities regulations. As the digital asset market grows and the financial institutions involved become more influential, regulators continue to struggle with jurisdictional and definitional questions around the new products.
On September 20, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission charged three individuals with conducting fraudulent crowdfunding schemes while also bringing charges against the crowdfunding portal where the offerings were conducted in SEC v. Shumake. As the first case being pursued under Regulation Crowdfunding, a number of questions wait on the horizon regarding the responsibility of crowdfunding platforms to protect investors when orchestrating such offerings.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been notably quiet on the subject, is beginning to show an interest in the cryptocurrency craze. It published a report last July concluding that initial coin offerings (ICOs) are subject to securities laws and that one ICO which raised nearly $150 million worth of cryptocurrency violated securities law.
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.