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Sarah Aberg is special counsel in the White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Group in the firm's New York office.

In an apparent follow up to President Biden’s March Executive Order on Digital Assets (which we previously discussed here), this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a similar executive order aiming to foster responsible innovation, bolster California’s innovation economy, and strengthen consumer protection through creating a transparent regulatory and business environment for Web3 companies.  Newsom’s executive order credits Biden’s executive order as paving the way for the assessment of key issues raised by crypto-assets and sets California on a path to harmonize its nascent crypto regulatory framework with forthcoming federal rules and guidelines and, hopefully, create regulatory clarity for businesses and consumers.
Continue Reading Governor Newsom Signs Blockchain Executive Order

This January, Adrienne A. Harris was confirmed as superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, which administers New York’s BitLicense program, among others.  In a March 28 interview, Harris discussed the BitLicense program in detail and addressed some of its longstanding issues, including its slow response times to applicants and updating some of the outdated regulatory and operational aspects of the program.
Continue Reading New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services Addresses BitLicense Delays

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

A couple rejected a refund settlement offer from the IRS over its tax treatment of tokens they earned from mining. Instead, the couple has sought formal adjudication on the issue from the federal courts. The government has filed a motion to dismiss claiming the issue is moot. The relevant issue is whether tax is due when crypto tokens are mined and awarded to the miners, as the IRS contended, or whether tax is due when the mined tokens are converted to fiat or cryptocurrency or otherwise used.
Continue Reading When Does Cryptocurrency Mining Create a Taxable Event? IRS Does Not Clarify

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued proposed amendments to the Securities Exchange Act [1] (the “Exchange Act”) that would significantly broaden the definition of “exchange” for purposes of regulation under the Exchange Act (“Proposed Rule”).[2] Designed to address a “regulatory gap,”[3] the Proposed Rule would cover “platforms for all kinds of asset classes that bring together buyers and sellers.”[4]  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.[5]  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

With the advent of blockchain technology, vendors are increasingly accepting payments of goods, including artwork, with digital currency. The decentralized nature of digital currency makes it attractive for a lot of reasons, but it also makes legal oversight a challenge. Add to that the emerging (or already emerged) high-value market for digital art. For example, Beeple’s Non-Fungible Token (“NFT”) collection sold for more than $69 million at an auction, and a CryptoPunk NFT sold for $23 million.
Continue Reading Money Laundering and High-Value Art: Treasury’s Study Discusses Financial Crimes and NFTs

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) recently signaled its approval for banks to fully wade into the cryptocurrency custodian space.  On in a July 22, 2020 interpretive letter, the OCC concluded that a national bank may provide cryptocurrency custody services on behalf of its customers, including by holding the unique cryptographic keys associated with cryptocurrency, so long as the institution is able to effectively manage the risks and complies with applicable law.
Continue Reading Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Affirms Authority of a National Bank to Provide Cryptocurrency Custody Services

On May 13, 2020, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) Director Kenneth Blanco delivered remarks to the Consensus Blockchain Conference regarding the agency’s recent observations in connection with virtual currencies, including the current risks of criminal exploitation of virtual currency, significant issues FinCEN anticipates for virtual currencies in the future, and the industry’s compliance with the Travel Rule.
Continue Reading FinCEN Director Addresses COVID-19 Related Virtual Currency Issues at Consensus Blockchain Conference