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
Christopher Bosch is an associate in the Governmental Practice in the firm's New York office.
On September 26, 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James (the “NYAG”) took definitive action in the wake of her warning last year that crypto lending platforms must register with her office or face legal action, filing a complaint against Nexo Inc. and Nexo Capital, Inc. (collectively “Nexo”) alleging that Nexo violated New York’s Martin Act and Executive Law by acting as an unregistered securities and/or commodities broker-dealer within the state. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Nexo improperly offered and sold securities and commodities by allowing users to purchase, sell, deposit, trade, borrow against, and earn interest on virtual currency, while unregistered. The complaint further alleges that Nexo made various misrepresentations regarding its operations. The NYAG seeks an injunction, disgorgement, restitution, and a permanent bar prohibiting Nexo from purchasing or selling securities or commodities in New York.
Continue Reading NYAG Delivers on Promise to Rein In Unregistered Crypto Lending with New Suit
A class action lawsuit filed by users of a decentralized finance (“DeFi”) protocol managed by a decentralized autonomous organization, or “DAO,” may shed light on the potential legal liabilities of a DAO and its participants. The complaint in Sarcuni v. bZx DAO, No. 22-cv-0618 (S.D. Cal. May 2, 2022), highlights several issues related to DAO liability of which DAO participants should be aware. There is a common misperception that an unincorporated DAO is not subject to liability because there is no entity for regulators to pursue. The fact is that such DAOs may be deemed general partnerships and the participants may each bear some liability for activities of the DAO. In some cases, a DAO includes a wrapper entity, in part, to shield participants from such liability. This issue highlights a tension between the aspirations of Web3 entities to be decentralized and community-governed on the one hand, and the challenges of accomplishing those aspirations given the current state of corporate law on the other hand.
New York’s chief law enforcement agency recently squandered an opportunity to bring much needed guidance to the digital assets space. On October 18, the Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (“NYAG”) issued a press release warning New York businesses offering interest-bearing accounts to customers who deposit virtual currency with them without having registered under General Business Law § 352, et seq. (the “Martin Act”) that they are breaking the law.
Continue Reading NYAG’s Warning to Crypto Businesses Muddies Regulatory Waters
Last week, Coinbase Global Inc. (“Coinbase”) headed off confrontation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) by announcing it was shelving a much ballyhooed digital asset lending product, Lend. The announcement came two weeks after Coinbase revealed that it had received a Wells notice from the SEC warning the company of its plans to sue over Coinbase’s planned October Lend launch.
Continue Reading A September to Remember: Coinbase Avoids SEC Clash by Dropping Crypto Lend Product
The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James (“NYAG”) has filed a lawsuit to shut down technology company Coinseed. The state has accused the firm of selling unregistered securities in the form of digital tokens and operating as an unregistered broker-dealer while making material misrepresentations about the company, its management team, and fees charged to investors in connection with cryptocurrency trades.
Continue Reading New York Attorney General Sues to Shutter Cryptocurrency Trading Firm Coinseed
Over the past couple of years, the crypto industry has come under heavy scrutiny from skeptical regulators seeking to root out fraud and protect investors amid the initial coin offering boom that generated over $4 billion in 2017. However, this skepticism is starting to give way to a more business-friendly attitude.
Crypto firms have made notable headway with regulators in recent months, securing authorizations to act as custodians of digital assets and working towards approval of the first bitcoin-based exchange traded fund (“ETF”). These developments may reflect an evolving collaborative environment that bodes well for the future of blockchain-based innovations.
Continue Reading Crypto Firms Make Inroads with State and Federal Regulators
On April 17, 2018, the New York State Attorney General (“NYAG”) sent a “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative Questionnaire” to 13 companies operating virtual currency trading platforms. The questionnaire consists of 34 questions covering a number of topics, including ownership and control, operation and fees, trading policies and procedures, outages and other suspensions of trading, internal controls, and privacy and money laundering.
Continue Reading New York’s AG Enters the Cryptocurrency Ring as Federal, State Authorities Find Regulatory Footing