OFAC Issues Sanctions Compliance Guidance for Virtual Currencies

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In October, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published new guidance for the virtual currency industry focusing on compliance with the financial industry’s obligations related to U.S. economic sanctions.

OFAC administers and enforces economic sanctions against targeted and/or sanctioned foreign countries, geographic regions, entities, and individuals to further U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.

As noted in the new guidance, virtual currencies now playing an increasingly prominent role in the global economy. The growing relevance of virtual currency, both as an investment and as a payment method, brings greater exposure to sanctions risks. Specifically, there is an increased risk that a sanctioned entity or an entity in a jurisdiction subject to sanctions might use virtual currency as an alternative to fiat currency in an effort to avoid U.S. sanctions. As such, the OFAC guidance specifically targets technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, virtual currency administrators, virtual miners, digital currency wallet providers, and users.

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Faegre Drinker on Law and Technology Podcast: A Primer on Cryptocurrency

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When it comes to cryptocurrency, questions abound: What can you purchase with crypto? How can you buy it? Is crypto a passing fad or an innovation that will stand the test of time? In this episode of the Faegre Drinker on Law and Technology Podcast, host Jason G. Weiss sits down with Faegre Drinker’s Jeffrey Blumberg and former Orange County District Attorney Rahul Gupta, a cybercrime prosecutor with experience in cryptocurrency criminal litigation, to talk all things cryptocurrency.

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NFA Proposes Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Members Engaging in Virtual Currency Activities

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The virtual currency market continues to grow, and this growth has fueled increased attention from retail investors and financial regulators. Financial institutions active in the virtual currency market have seen a trend towards increased regulatory oversight and the latest development imposes new client disclosure requirements upon certain companies.

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SEC Freezes $27 Million Related to a Blockchain/Cryptocurrency Acquisition

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained a court order freezing more than $27 million in proceeds from alleged illegal distributions and sales of restricted shares of a public company , and charged the company, its CEO, and three other affiliated individuals on April 6, 2018. That same day, the Nasdaq Stock Market  halted trading in the company’s stock.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that shortly after the company began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market and announced the acquisition of a purported blockchain-empowered cryptocurrency business,  its stock price rose dramatically until its market capitalization exceeded $3 billion. The SEC further alleges that the CEO and the three other individual defendants then illegally sold large blocks of their restricted shares to the public while the stock price was excessively elevated and that they collectively reaped more than $27 million in profits.

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FTC Requests the Shut Down of a Deceptive Cryptocurrency “Ponzi” Scheme

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Recent activity by the FTC in court continues to indicate that federal regulators are prepared to take a strong stance on deceptive practices related to cryptocurrency.

In a complaint, filed on February 20, 2018, the FTC alleges that Thomas Dluca, Louis Gatto, and Eric Pinkston engaged in unfair or deceptive business practice, and misrepresented material facts, associated with businesses known as the “Bitcoin Funding Team,” “My7Network,” and “Jetcoin.”

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Enforcement Actions Launched by Securities and Exchange Commission – Heightened Scrutiny of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Companies

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A recent flurry of activity by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in court, and strong talk on the Hill, gives a clear indication that the U.S. regulatory agency is making a significant push to rein in the current wild-west atmosphere of investments in Blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.

In the wake of the DAO Report issued by the SEC in July 2017, the agency released several Investor Alerts to warn the public of the risks associated with investing in initial coin offerings (ICOs), including an alert to warn investors to be careful about advertisements by celebrities promoting ICOs and other Blockchain-related investments. Moreover, the SEC chairman and his counterpart at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have recently released statements and op-eds and appeared before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee to elevate the awareness of lawmakers and the public of some of these risks.

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