The SEC has, in rapid fire, announced enforcements against two NFT projects for allegedly violating securities laws. The first action announced August 28, 2023 was against Impact Theory and the second action announced September 13, 2023 was against Stoner Cats. In both cases, two SEC Commissioners dissented. The SEC has taken these actions despite not first offering specific guidance on the applicability of securities law to NFTs. While these actions have come as a surprise to many in the NFT industry, we have been cautioning NFT projects about these issues for some time. And in our NFT Regulatory Issues – a 2022 Review and 2023 Preview, we commented:Continue Reading SEC Enforcements Against NFTs – Are You Next?
On August 28, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) instituted cease-and-desist proceedings under Section 8A of the Securities Act against Impact Theory, a Los Angeles media and entertainment company, alleging that the company’s sale of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) violated the registration requirements under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Act”). Continue Reading The SEC’s Sudden Impact on NFTs!
The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) has taken action against Genesis Global Capital, LLC (“Genesis”) and Gemini Trust Company, LLC (“Gemini”) (collectively, “Defendants”) in a recently-filed complaint alleging that the crypto companies violated federal securities laws by engaging in the unregistered offer and sale of securities in the form of their “Gemini Earn Agreements.” In doing so, the Commission not only relied upon the mainstay Howey Test for determining whether an agreement is a security, but also summoned Howey’s lesser-known cousin, the Reves Test, notably leading with the latter in its complaint.Continue Reading SEC Showcases Lesser-Known Legal Theory in Crypto Lending Suit
We have previously posted about the SEC lawsuit against LBRY. In that post, we noted that while the crypto community is rightfully focused on the Ripple case to see how the SEC will fare in court on enforcements alleging cryptocurrency offerings are a security, a lesser-known case may provide clarity first. And today that came to be. The federal district court in the LBRY case granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC. In so ruling, the Court found no reasonable trier of fact could reject the SEC’s contention that LBRY offered LBC as a security, and LBRY does not have a triable defense that it lacked fair notice.
Continue Reading Federal Court Rules LBRY Offered Security and Rejects Arguments SEC Did Not Provide Fair Notice
We have previously addressed the recent indictment against Nathaniel Chastain, a former executive of a major NFT marketplace, for insider trading involving NFTs. The indictment charges Chastain with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. It does not allege that the NFT is a security. It does not allege violation of the insider trading laws under securities law. Since then, as we have reported, that SEC has been investigating lack of insider trading policies for NFT/crypto exchanges.
For quite some time, we have been advising that marketplaces and NFT/crypto issuers consider developing an insider trading policy. The SEC is now investigating this issue. If you do not have a policy this is a good time to do so.
While the crypto community is rightfully focused on the Ripple case to see how the SEC will fare in court on enforcements alleging cryptocurrency offerings are a security, a lesser-known case may provide clarity first. The SEC’s suit against LBRY is scheduled for trial in September 2022.
A recent class-action lawsuit alleges that the “Uniswap Protocol” exchange is one of the largest crypto-asset exchanges in the world, which permits the unlawful promotion, offer, and sale of crypto tokens as unregistered securities. According to the complaint, Uniswap has no barriers to entry for users looking to trade or swap crypto tokens on the exchange. It requires no verification of an individual’s identity and conducts no “know-your-customer” (KYC) process, leading to rampant fraud. The complaint further alleges that Uniswap has enriched itself and the other defendants (including its VC backers) by collecting fees for issuers on every transaction executed on the exchange that is not disclosed in a transparent manner, in violation of securities laws. Other allegations are that Uniswap offered and sold unregistered securities throughout the United States on its exchange without registering as a national securities exchange or as a broker-dealer and without there being any registration statements in effect for the tokens it was selling, all in violation of applicable law.
Continue Reading Uniswap and VC Backers Sued For Selling Unregistered Securities
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has announced its examination priorities for the fiscal year 2022. Among them is crypto-assets. Specifically, the SEC is targeting robo-advisers, fractionalization, and other crypto-custody arrangement practices.
Continue Reading SEC Announces 2022 Examination Priorities, Includes Crypto-Assets
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued proposed amendments to the Securities Exchange Act  (the “Exchange Act”) that would significantly broaden the definition of “exchange” for purposes of regulation under the Exchange Act (“Proposed Rule”). Designed to address a “regulatory gap,” the Proposed Rule would cover “platforms for all kinds of asset classes that bring together buyers and sellers.” Under the Proposed Rule, communication protocol systems—trading systems that offer the use of non-firm trading interest and provide protocols to bring together buyers and sellers of securities—would have to register with the SEC as an exchange unless otherwise exempt. As we previously reported, this amendment, if passed, likely would have a significant impact on the decentralized finance (“defi”) industry.
Continue Reading SEC Proposed Amendments Could Significantly Impact DeFi Companies
For some time now we have cautioned companies to seek legal advice for certain business models relating to NFTs. According to a recent report, the SEC is now targeting certain NFT uses. According to the report, the SEC is probing whether NFTs are being utilized to raise money like traditional securities. The SEC has reportedly sent subpoenas related to the investigation and is particularly interested in information about fractional NFTs. Fractionalization allows multiple people to hold (and trade) a share of an asset. Each share is represented by an NFT that represents a fraction of the ownership of or revenue rights associated with the asset. In some cases, this may meet the Howey test, which is one of the primary tests the SEC uses to assess whether a digital asset is a security.
Continue Reading SEC Targets NFTs