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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Building the Blocks of Knowledge – NIST Releases Draft Blockchain Technology Overview

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On January 25, 2018, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) division of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a draft report of Blockchain technology (Overview). Recognizing the growing public awareness of the most well-known application of Blockchain technology – Bitcoin, the Overview draft report provides a high-level discussion of the technical components of Blockchain technology, addressing how data is encrypted, and how the data is verified and then distributed among the participating Blockchain parties. NIST is seeking comments on the scope and completeness of the draft Overview, which are due by February 23, 2018.

The Overview begins with a fairly detailed, yet accessible, overview of the architecture of Blockchain technology, covering both how data that is to be recorded and encrypted in the blocks, and how the individual blocks are then incorporated into the corresponding Blockchain. Discussions of hashing, nonces, forking and Merkle Trees are included, along with helpful charts for those with a preference for visuals.

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