Ubiquitous Use of WhatsApp and Other Unrecorded Internal Communications Result in Substantial Penalties in Recent SEC, CFTC Actions

The SEC has, for many years, used broker-dealer and associated persons’ failure to create and maintain books and records as a basis for the imposition of serious penalties.  In recent actions, it appears to be continuing—and upping the ante on—its enforcement in this area.

Simply stated, it is increasingly imperative for broker-dealers and investment advisory businesses, among other entities, to develop and maintain policies and procedures to ensure that their records are properly created, maintained, and produced to the appropriate agency upon request—including that employees’ communications related to their business should be made only through approved channels, and approved and monitored devices, such that those communications can be maintained and preserved for production as required by federal securities laws and regulatory authorities, and in any pending or threatened litigation.

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Reg BI: What’s Going On and What May Happen Next?

Chicago partner, Jim Lundy, co-leader of the firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations team and the firm’s SEC & Regulatory Enforcement Defense practice, provides a end of year update on Reg BI. In this blog post, Jim discusses the events that have taken place since SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s last statements on Reg BI early in 2021 including the recent speech from SEC Commissioner and former Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee and deficiency letters across the brokerage industry.

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Is SEC “Regulation by Enforcement” for the Digital Asset Industry Next Up?

Cryptocurrencies are one of the fastest growing asset types worldwide. Cryptocurrencies, as an asset class, total over $1.5 trillion in market capitalization. With the rapid growth of this asset type, SEC Chair Gary Gensler shared his views for the SEC in this area. At a recent conference, Chair Gensler continued to broadly characterize most digital assets as “investment contracts,” placing cryptocurrencies within the scope of the SEC’s enforcement powers. During his remarks at the Aspen Security Forum on August 3, Chair Gensler stated, “many of these tokens are offered and sold as securities” because they meet the definition of an “investment contract.” As established by the U.S. Supreme Court under the “Howey Test”, investment contracts are defined as agreements in which a person invests money in a common enterprise, expecting profits based on the efforts of others. Investment vehicles that satisfy the “Howey Test” definition for investment contracts are securities that fall within the jurisdiction of the SEC.

Chair Gensler further stated that the cryptocurrency area currently “lacks the typical investor protection guardrails” and that he has asked Congress for additional authority to “prevent transactions, products and platforms from falling between regulatory cracks.” Chair Gensler’s views appear supported by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement having brought 75 enforcement actions over the last decade. However, others are not convinced that the SEC has clearly defined jurisdiction.

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Cybersecurity Enforcement Trends: A Fraught New Reality for ‘Victims’ of Cyberattacks

Partners Peter Baldwin and Bob Mancuso published “Cybersecurity Enforcement Trends: A Fraught New Reality for ‘Victims’ of Cyberattacks.” This article in the New York Law Journal discusses how regulators have shifted their focus from data breach notifications to overall cybersecurity preparedness.

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“Independence-Day” Malware and Managing the (Beach) Risks of Jaws

In the spirit of our previous Holiday film blogs, we present for your viewing pleasure (and background research) the following Independence Day films for your (re)viewing pleasure.  Both deserve renewed attention in light of:

  • The SEC’s recent Solar Winds-Cybersecurity-related events, regarding disclosure of material weaknesses or material cyber security risks related to the Solar Winds compromise;
  • The re-opening of offices and recent announcements of certain businesses explaining employees should be back in the office or else.

We offer the following Independence Day Weekend themed film streaming recommendations that relate to each of the above and therefore count as background research.

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Chair Gensler Appoints NJ AG SEC Enforcement Director

On Tuesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that Gurbir Grewal will be the Director of the Division of Enforcement, effective July 26, 2021.  Grewal has been the Attorney General of New Jersey since 2018.

Grewal’s appointment follows the previous appointment and abrupt resignation of Alex Oh for the same role.  In contrast to Oh, Grewal has spent most of his career in government.  Prior to his current role, Grewal was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey.  From 2014 to 2016, Grewal led the Economic Crimes Unit for the District of New Jersey.

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IRS Is Cleared to Serve John Doe Summons on Cryptocurrency Exchange

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has granted the IRS leave to serve the “John Doe summons”. The summons requires the administrators of a cryptocurrency exchange called Poloniex to release documents and information on U.S. taxpayers who conducted transactions in cryptocurrency totaling over $20,000 in any calendar year from 2016 through 2020. Individual account-holders may face enforcement activity in the future.

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A Proposal to the CFTC for a New Way for “Bets” to Be Hedged

Perhaps it is in the spirit of March Madness and bracketology, but the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC or Commission) recently acknowledged consideration of a proposal by a sports gambling company to allow state-licensed sportsbooks and certain NFL-stadium owners and vendors to trade future contracts tied to NFL game outcomes.

The proposal, submitted by Eris Exchange, LLC (ErisX), seeks to list three types of NFL futures contracts on ErisX’s Regulated Sports Book Index Exchange (RSBIX). The contracts under review are tied to three common NFL game bets: money lines, point spreads, and total points scored in an individual game (over/unders). ErisX’s proposal would limit exchange participants to “eligible contract participants” and would allow only licensed sportsbooks, stadium owners and vendors, and qualified market makers to trade on the exchange—i.e., not individual investors or other investment funds with no connection to NFL stadium operations.

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