Sean Cuff is a third-year student at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. He was born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Prior to attending law school, Sean worked in staffing in and recruiting for over 4 years, most recently creating a new ERP and EMR staffing division for Robert Half in Denver.
In addition to contributing to The Race to the Bottom, Sean is a Production Editor on the Denver Law Review and a member of DU's National Trial Team. Outside of law school you can find Sean skiing, running, or at a local coffee shop in Denver.
Last year, financial regulators around the world adapted to the rise of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Approaches to regulation have varied, but most major financial markets are striving to better understand the technology and develop methods for investor transparency and protection. In 2018, regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) reacted to the cryptocurrency marketplace with heightened attention. (Jonathan Levin, Bloomberg). Last year, for example, the SEC started to examine smaller brokerage firms dealing virtual tokens for potential enforcement actions. Outside the United States, French regulator Autorite des Marches Financiers (“AMF”) blacklisted new cryptocurrency investment websites, while Russia drafted legislation to implement cryptocurrency regulation.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency are now mainstays in financial markets and initial coin offerings (“ICO’s”) are giving companies and firms a new avenue to raise capital. Within the cryptocurrency market, “stablecoins” offer a unique form of cryptocurrency to investors. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies pegged to real-world assets such as the dollar (“USD”) or gold. (Oscar Williams-Grut, Business Insider). Breaking from the volatility seen in other cryptocurrency markets, stablecoins are an attempt to combine the benefits of digital transfer offered by cryptocurrency with the stability of mainstream currency. (Oscar Williams-Grut, Business Insider).
The emergence of cryptocurrency and blockchain poses questions for financial regulators around the world. Regulators are struggling to understand both where cryptocurrency fits within their regulatory framework and how to set up parameters for transparency and investor integrity. (Bob Pisani, CNBC). Recently, American regulators increased scrutiny for broker-dealers working with cryptocurrency. (Benjamin Bain, Bloomberg). Financial powers in other countries are also responding individually to the crypto-movement, and France exemplifies a recent response.
As cryptocurrency and blockchainbecome more prominent in today’s financial markets, regulators around the worldare coping with how to maintain transparency and legitimacy in the market. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and its new cyber unit began requesting specific information about cryptocurrency brokerage and Initial Coin Offerings(ICO’s) for enforcement purposes. (Josephine Wolff, Slate; Benjamin Bain, Bloomberg). The results of the requests remain unclear, but the probe for information sheds light on the SEC’s suspicion of misconduct.
The rise of blockchain and cryptocurrency has taken the financial world by storm. In 2017, various companies and financial firms raised capital through initial coin offerings(“ICO”). As cryptocurrency becomes more politically popular, world economic powers are faced with an important question: how do we regulate cryptocurrency? Currently, regulatory approaches vary from country to country. Outside of the core desire to remove anonymity and push adherence to tax laws, government actions have been anything but consistent. (see Element Group report). While the current cryptocurrency regulatory landscape is in flux, this article addresses recent trends and responses to the crypto explosion around the globe.
In General Electric Co., 2018 BL 71731 (Mar. 1, 2018), General Electric Company (“GE”) asked the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to permit omission of a proposal submitted by Martin Harangozo (“Shareholder”) requesting that GE’s board of directors provide cumulative voting in the election of directors. In addition, Shareholder submitted images he wished to be displayed in support of his proposal, three unattributed quotes, and the following statement: “The increase in shareholder voice as represented in cumulative voting may serve to better align shareholder performance to CEO performance (see image).” The SEC declined to issue the requested no action letter in its entirety under Rule 14a-8(i)(4) but found grounds to exclude the attached images under Rule 14a-8(i)(3).
In SEC v. Mapp, No. 4:16-CV-00246, 2017 BL 401498 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 8, 2017), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted in part and denied in part the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) motion for summary judgment and denied William E. Mapp’s (“Defendant”) partial motion for summary judgment.
According to the allegations, Defendant raised approximately $26 million in private securities offerings as CEO for Servergy, Inc., (“Servergy”) from November 2009 to September 2013. Defendant received over $1.4 million in investments from Caleb White (“White”) through Dominion Joint Venture Group No. 1, 2, and 3 (collectively “Dominion JVs”). Servergy also secured $19.4 million from broker dealer WFG Investments, Inc. (“WFG”). Severgy did not file a registration statement for any of its securities offerings.
In SEC v. Cary, No. 8:17-cv-01649, 2017 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 21, 2017), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint against Justin Samuel Cary (“Cary”) in the United States District Court for the Central District of California for alleged violations of the Securities Exchange Act Section 10(b) (“§ 10b”) and Rules 10b-5(a) and 10b-5(c) promulgated thereunder.
According to the complaint, Cary, a certified public accountant, worked as a consultant for NOW CFO, an accounting outsourcing firm. NOW CFO placed Cary as a consultant with Adaptive Medias from March 2013 through March 2016. Cary prepared financial statements for Adaptive Medias that were filed with the SEC, and acted as Adaptive Medias’ point of contact for its independent auditors.
In ITT Inc., 2017 BL 84441 (March 16, 2017), ITT Inc., (“ITT”) asked the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to permit ITT to omit a shareholder proposal submitted by John Chevedden (“Shareholder”) requesting that ITT place a proposal on ITT’s proxy statement permitting a group of up to 50 shareholders to aggregate their shares to equal 3% of ITT stock owned continuously for 3-years in order to make use of shareholder proxy access. The SEC issued the requested no-action letter permitting ITT to exclude the proposal under Rule 14a-8(i)(10).
In SEC v. Hovannisian, No. 1:17-at-00617, 2017 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2017), defendants Damon Hovannisian, Vernon Hovannisian, Vincent Hovannisian, and Eddie Arakelian (collectively “Defendants”) consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against them, prohibiting future violations of the Securities Exchange Act Section 10(b) (“§ 10b”) and disgorgement of profits including prejudgment interest totaling $470,000 to settle securities fraud claims brought by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.