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.Read More
The precipitous rise of cryptocurrencies has numerous implications for securities trading, the most fundamental of which is when, and if, any given cryptocurrency exchange is required to become a registered exchange as defined by the SEC.
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be traded and exchanged (Ian King, Investopedia). One defining feature of cryptocurrency is that it is decentralized, meaning it is not issued by a central bank or regulatory agency. Id.This foundational aspect of cryptocurrencies is desirable to investors because unlike traditional fiat currencies that are subject to governmental control and manipulation, cryptocurrencies and their values operate independently from a central authority.Read More
An initial coin offering (ICO) is a capital raising mechanism whereby companies sell bitcoins to investors or buyers in exchange for funds. (Usman Chohan, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs): Risks, Regulation, and Accountability). An ICO is different from traditional capital raises. Rather than selling shares of stock in a company, an ICO offers digital currencies or cryptocurrencies. In addition, most ICOs do not offer equity or a stake in the company’s projects. The concept of using ICOs to raise capital has grown exponentially in recent years as they pose a cost-efficient way of conducting transactions with little regulation. ICOs, however, also pose a greater risk of fraud due to their place in the unregulated market.Read More
The regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies is fast paced, ever-changing, and hard to pin down (see Element Group report). To understand why governments are interested in regulating cryptocurrencies, background about their potential function is necessary. Cryptocurrencies enormous potential comes from the use of “public ledgers” which, through a complicated application of cryptology and software, reduce transaction costs associated with value transfer by creating independently verifiable transaction validations. The public ledger system, however, only documents transactions and ownership. The only identity recorded on the ledger is "a set of letters and numbers . . . representing the [user's] public cryptocurrency address."Read More
Unlike other currencies and monetary systems that rely on a centralized authority, such as banks, to track transactions, maintain records, and ensure balances remain accurate and current; cryptocurrencies operate without any type of centralized reporting system. Instead, cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, utilize a decentralized network to verify and confirm transactions, track balances, flawlessly store and maintain records, and even generate new currency. While the exact manner in which this is accomplished is extremely technical and complex, it essentially boils down to giving every node, or peer, on the network access to all the records, including balances.Read More
With the popularity and growth of cryptocurrencies many companies are using initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) to raise capital. ICOs allow investors to exchange typical currency for a coin or token. The ICO market continues to grow—in 2017 an estimated $4 billion was raised through ICOs. (Jay Clayton, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission). So far, 2018 has seen $2 billion raised through ICOs. (David Sacks and Josh Stein, Harbor). Funding a venture through a cryptocurrency gives companies and individuals the ability to make transfers regardless of geographic location, and it has lower transaction costs than traditional financing methods. Using cryptocurrencies, however, also has drawbacks—mainly anonymity of purchasers and sellers coupled with a lack of government regulation.Read More