As I have previously noted, the dramatic recent rise in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and in transactions involving cryptocurrencies generally has been accompanied by a number of securities class action lawsuits alleging, among other things, that the digital currencies’ issuers or sponsors failed to register the coins or tokens as securities with the SEC as required by the federal securities laws. These lawsuits raise a number of novel and interesting issues, including jurisdictional issues and other concerns arising from the cross-border nature of many of these transactions. On August 7, 2018, in a detailed decision in the securities class action relating to the 2017 Tezos ICO, Northern District of California Judge Richard Seeborg ruled on a number of these threshold issues. Among other things, Judge Seeborg’s decision contains an interesting analysis of the place of the ICO transactions took place in order to determine whether or not the U.S. securities laws apply. Judge Seeborg’s order can be found here.
Continue Reading Tezos ICO Securities Suit Dismissal Motion Denial Addresses Key Threshold Issues

Among the most interesting and significant recent developments on the financial landscape has been the rise of cryptocurrencies and ICOs. As these digital assets have proliferated, they have created a host of regulatory and legal issues. These issues in turn have presented related insurance issues. In the following guest post, John McCarrick, Sedgwick Jeanite, and Michael Goldwasser of the White & Williams law firm take a look at the claims and insurance coverage issues that ICOs present. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: ICO-Related Claims and Insurance Coverage: Questions You Should be Asking

One of the cutting-edge legal issues – one that is raised in a number of pending securities class action lawsuits – is the question of whether cryptocurrencies are “securities” and therefore required to be registered with the SEC before they can be traded. Within this larger question are a host of related issues, perhaps the most interesting of which is the question whether digital currencies that act as “mediums of exchange” are securities, or rather are more like traditional currencies, which are exempt from the definition of securities. The answer to this question could have an enormous impact on the marketplace for digital currencies and could have significant liability implications in a number of pending actions and enforcement actions.
Continue Reading Is a Digital Coin that Functions as a Medium of Exchange a “Security”?

John Reed Stark

One of the most significant recent developments in the financial world has been the sudden proliferation of cryptocurrencies. The quick rise of digital currencies seemingly caught regulators by surprise; regulatory action and involvement was slow to develop. But as John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, documents in the following guest post, U.S. regulators have heard the bell and are now rising to action, and for good reason. A version of this article previously appeared on Cybersecurity Docket. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit and article. Here is John’s guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Why the Crypto-Enforcement Onslaught by U.S. Regulators Has Just Begun

John Reed Stark

As cryptocurrencies and ICOs have proliferated, one very key question has been whether not the coins or tokens are securities within the meaning of the federal securities laws. Earlier this week, the first federal court hearing at which this question was discussed took place in the federal district court in Brooklyn. In the following guest post, John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, provides his detailed report of the court hearing as well as his perspective on the topics under discussion. A version of this article originally appeared on Cybersecurity Docket. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: The First Federal Court Hearing on SEC Jurisdiction over ICOs

Among the many problems that have come to light in the current cryptocurrency craze have been problems relating to celebrity endorsements for initial coin offerings (ICO). In the following guest post, John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, reviews the highest profile examples of cryptocurrency celebrity endorsements, and then proposes a list of cryptocurrency caveats, for celebrities and for everyone else as well. A version of this article originally appeared on Cybersecurity Docket. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Ten Crypto-Caveats Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled Should Have Heard From Their Lawyers

Among the many innovations we have had to confront in a world characterized by rapid technological change is the advent of cryptocurrency, as a social and financial phenomenon. As I have previously noted, the current cryptocurrency craze has also become a legal phenomenon as well, as now nearly a dozen securities class action lawsuits involving cryptocurrency, ICOs, and blockchain technology have been filed just in the last six months or so. The latest of these lawsuits  — one involving allegations relating to an Italian cryptocurrency exchange operator nicknamed “The Bomber” and including investor demands for the court to compel a “rescue fork” — may suggest that in addition to technological change, the advent of cryptocurrency could introduce legal changes as well.
Continue Reading Cryptocurrencies: New Digital Assets, New Legal Issues?

I am sure that when most people think about the kind of organization that might engage in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), they typically are thinking of a start-up venture — an enterprise trying to get off the ground. But there have been some high-profile cases of well-established companies trying to jump on board the cryptocurrency bandwagon. For example, Kodak, the iconic film and photographic equipment company that has fallen on hard times in recent years, announced a plan earlier this year to launch KodakCoin, a photography-focused cryptocurrency that is supposed to help photographers manage their collections by creating permanent, immutable records of ownership. (Kodak’s later postponed the planned launch.)

The online retailer Overstock.com is another established company that late last year announced plans for a cryptocurrency offering. Overstock’s cryptocurrency plans were derailed earlier this month after its planned offering drew SEC scrutiny. Now, the company has been hit with a securities class action lawsuit relating to its miscarried cryptocurrency initiative, as discussed below. Though much of what happened to Overstock is company- specific, the sequence of events and the overall circumstances may have some important lessons as the cryptocurrency phenomenon evolves.   
Continue Reading We Need to Talk About ICOs, Cryptocurrency, and Blockchain

One of the most distinct phenomena at the peak of the Internet bubble in the late 90s was the way that so many otherwise entirely ordinary companies added “dot com” to their names to try to cash in on the frenzy. It now looks as if some companies are attempting moves from the same playbook amidst the current cryptocurrency mania. Companies with no prior connection either to bitcoin or blockchain are adopting names or strategies as a way to try to ride the current wave, even where the companies have little or no experience with the technologies. Regulators noting these developments have started sounding the alarm bell. And in at least one instance, these kinds of developments have led to securities litigation.
Continue Reading Company Capitalizing on Blockchain Mania Draws Securities Suit