United States

Topic: Enforcement

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SEC sues Kik for its US$100m ICO

On June 4, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint against Kik Interactive, Inc. (“Kik”), which owns and operates a mobile messaging application called Kik Messenger, in connection with its 2017 initial coin offering (“ICO”) that raised over $100 million; more than $55 million of which came from U.S. investors. The SEC … Continue Reading

SEC Adopts Regulation Best Interest Increasing Broker-Dealer Standards of Care and Disclosure Obligations

On June 5, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced it had adopted a number of rulemakings and interpretations aimed at tightening the standards of care governing broker-dealers and investment advisers and clarifying the duties of broker-dealers and investment advisers in providing investment advice. Rulemaking The SEC issued two final rules: (i) the new … Continue Reading

SEC Urges Broker-Dealers and Investment Advisors to Evaluate their Cloud-Based Storage Security Settings

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) recently noted that ineffective practices, policies, and procedures governing the use of third party cloud-based storage platforms could result in compliance issues under Regulations S-P (Safeguards Rule) and S-ID (Identity Theft Red Flag Rule). As a result, OCIE has issued a Risk … Continue Reading

No news is good news? The SEC may be undermining innovation in FinTech

On May 9, 2019, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce delivered a speech at the Securities Enforcement Forum in East Palo Alto, California, discussing the SEC’s impact on the FinTech space and growth of the digital asset industry. Commissioner Peirce admitted her prior prediction, that the SEC would discourage the industry’s growth through hurried regulation and overenthusiastic … Continue Reading

CFTC Division of Enforcement Publishes Enforcement Manual

On May 8, 2019, the Division of Enforcement (“Division”) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (”CFTC”) announced that it had published its Enforcement Manual (“Manual”). This is the first issuance of a public Manual. Prior to this publication, the Manual was only available internally as a general reference to the Division’s Staff during their investigation … Continue Reading

A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments

Yesterday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published ‘A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments’* in order to provide organizations subject to US jurisdiction, as well as foreign entities that conduct business in or with the United States or US persons, or that use US-origin goods or services, with a … Continue Reading

FinCEN fines peer-to-peer virtual currency exchanger for AML violations

On April 18, 2019, the U.S. anti-money laundering (“AML”) agency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), announced that it had assessed a civil money penalty of $35,350 against Eric Powers of Kern County, California, for acting as an unregistered money services (“MSB”) business. Mr. Powers also agreed to cease engaging in any activity that might … Continue Reading

US extends economic sanctions on Venezuela to its Central Bank

On April 17, 2019, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had designated Banco Central de Venezuela (Banco Central), the country’s Central Bank, as subject to U.S. economic sanctions. A current director also was sanctioned; several other Banco Central management and directors previously had been designated for economic sanctions. The … Continue Reading

New York denies Bittrex a virtual currency license and orders it to cease doing business in New York

A day after the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) approved its 19th application for a license or authorization to conduct a virtual currency business in New York, it issued a denial of the application of Bittrex, Inc. (Bittrex) for a DFS BitLicense and a Money Transmitter License. Bittrex had been operating a … Continue Reading

Global Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Trends for 2019

In this on-demand webinar, members of our Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations team in London, France, the US and Hong Kong give their thoughts on likely regulatory enforcement and sanctions trends for the rest of this year based on recent enforcement cases and forward looking statements from the regulators. Topics discussed include individual accountability, anti-money laundering … Continue Reading

Cutting and pasting misstatements can get you nailed for securities fraud

In a decision with implications for private securities fraud suits, the United States Supreme Court recently held that an investment banker that copied and pasted misstatements from his boss into emails to prospective investors committed securities fraud, despite not being the actual “maker” of the statement, because the statement was attributed to another person. In … Continue Reading

Paying (or not) fees on registered US patents and trademarks in Venezuela in cryptocurrency

Last month, the Venezuelan Ministry of National Commerce issued a notice requiring patent and trademark fees to be paid in the cryptocurrency issued by the Venezuelan government — the Petro, which supposedly is backed by Venezuela’s oil and mineral reserves. As noted in previous posts, the United States has been increasing its economic sanctions on … Continue Reading

SEC takes aim at digital tokens and smart contracts

On the heels of the first-ever judicial holding this past summer that a cryptocurrency could qualify as a “security” under federal securities laws, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has brought a wave of new enforcement actions targeting blockchain-based digital token ventures under a variety of provisions in the securities laws. In a recent New … Continue Reading

US strengthens economic sanctions on Venezuela

On January 28, 2019, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) added Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and a primary source of the country’s income and foreign currency, to its list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN List”). Norton Rose Fulbright has prepared a … Continue Reading

Sanctions and Supply Chains: e.l.f. Cosmetics, Inc. pays nearly USD 1 million to settle North Korea sanctions violations

A US-based cosmetics company, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Inc. (ELF), has reached a USD 996,080 settlement with the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for importing 156 shipments of false eyelash kits containing materials sourced from North Korea in apparent violation of the North Korea Sanctions Regulations. The materials were supplied by two of ELF’s China-based … Continue Reading

Broker-dealers can continue to rely on investment advisers for customer KYC requirements

In a December 12, 2018, letter to a US trade association with members that include broker-dealers in securities (“broker-dealers”), the US Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) extended its no-action relief to broker-dealers who wish to rely on investment advisers to perform the broker-dealer’s obligations under US federal anti-money laundering (“AML”) customer identification program and beneficial … Continue Reading

Transition period under New York cybersecurity regulation ends March 1, 2019

The two-year transitional period under the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) Cybersecurity Regulation, 23 NYCRR 500 (the “Regulation”), will expire on March 1, 2019, with the final remaining requirement becoming effective. Entities covered by the Regulation that utilize third party service providers, which include not only banks and insurers, but also other … Continue Reading

Banking agencies and FinCEN encourage innovative efforts by banks to combat money laundering and terrorist financing

On December 3, 2018, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), (collectively, the “Agencies”) issued a joint statement (“Joint Statement”) urging banks to consider, evaluate and potentially implement … Continue Reading

US economic sanctions also affect non-US companies

Over the last few months, US economic sanctions have taken the front pages as the Trump Administration has reinstated certain sanctions aimed at Iran following the United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”). While the so-called “snapback” reinstated sanctions provisions increase the risk for non-US companies, recent enforcement actions against non-US … Continue Reading

SEC issues statement on digital asset securities issuance, investment and trading

On November 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a statement on the application of federal securities laws to the issuance and trading of, and investment in, digital asset securities. While the statement encourages technological innovations that benefit investors and capital markets, it emphasizes that market participants must still adhere to federal securities … Continue Reading

SEC announces first enforcement action against EtherDelta for operating an unregistered exchange for ERC20 digital tokens

On November 8, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that it settled charges against Zachary Coburn, founder of EtherDelta, a digital token trading platform, for operating an unregistered national securities exchange. This is the SEC’s first enforcement action based on findings that a digital token trading platform operated as an unregistered national securities … Continue Reading

Iranian sanctions re-imposed and in full effect

As of November 5, 2018, all of the US sanctions that were lifted or waived in connection with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2016 nuclear deal among the United States and its allies and Iran, have been re-imposed and are in full effect. As a result, non-US companies can be subject to … Continue Reading

CFTC Commissioner Brian Quintenz warns smart contract code developers may be held liable for violations of CFTC regulations

On October 16, 2018, Commissioner Brian Quintenz of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) shared his views on smart contract regulation by the CFTC. In his speech at the 38th Annual GITEX Technology Week Conference, in discussing a hypothetical where code in a smart contract was specifically designed to enable a type of activity regulated … Continue Reading

Regulators bring enforcement actions against 1pool Ltd.

On September 27, 2018, both the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) filed charges against Marshall Islands-based firm 1pool Ltd. (“1pool”) and its Austria-based CEO and owner, Patrick Brunner, for (i) failing to register as a security-based swaps dealer with the SEC, (ii) failing to register as a futures … Continue Reading
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