SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to Step Down By Years End; Will Crypto Regulations Ease?

Jay Clayton is set to step down as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman by the end of this year.

Clayton, who has been at the agency’s helm since May 2017, stated he would be departing six months from his scheduled exit. He was expected to step down in June next year.

Appointed by President Donald Trump and sworn in as chair in May 2017. His early departure could have accelerated by the apparent election of Joe Biden as the next president, it still remains to be seen who might replace him. Stating,

“I would like to thank President Trump for the opportunity, and the support and freedom, to lead the women and men of the SEC.”

The chair also thanked Secretary Mnuchin as well as the entire treasury for their support and assistance. He also praised other agencies in the treasury department for their close working relations.

According to a statement from the SEC, Through Clayton’s leadership, the SEC improved the capacity of businesses of different sizes to raise capital and strengthen the enforcement of programs. The report said:

“The Commission obtained orders for over $14 billion in monetary remedies, including a record $4.68 billion in fiscal year 2020, and returned approximately $3.5 billion to harmed investors.”

“In addition, during Chairman Clayton’s tenure, the Commission paid approximately $565 million to whistleblowers, including the largest single award in the program’s history ($114 million).”

The SEC also stated that Clayton was steadfast in the enforcement of different policies and regulations within the crypto space. His tenure coincides with the recent largest Bitcoin’s bull run and the 2017 ICO’s wave.

Clayton was a controversial figure in the crypto space for his hard stance that almost all the ICOs were offering unregistered securities. Notably, however, Clayton opined that Bitcoin was not a security as well as Ethereum too. Later, the SEC reaffirmed this opinion.

In his tenure, Clayton has seen the SEC institute fines on numerous crypto projects which ran ICOs. Over the last year alone, the SEC collected about $1.26 billion as fines from different crypto projects. His departure is seen as a welcome move from the crypto and blockchain community.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

SEC Raises the Crowdfunding Limit; A Better Alternative to ICO, IEO, & Venture Capital

The US Securities and Exchange Commission raised the limit on crowdfunding from $1.07 million to $5 million, making it easier for startups to raise money from non-accredited investors.

With a 3-2 vote on Monday, several exemptions were made to federal securities legal guidelines that require issuers to register with the SEC and publish monetary statements.

Many financial instruments are categorized as securities, and to offer security, one is either required to register, which is a time-consuming and expensive process, or fall under the exemption such as Reg A, Reg D, which now also involves Reg CF or Reg Crowdfunding.

With this rule change, companies are now provided with more flexibility.

“This means entrepreneurs can raise more money and do so more easily,” said Bruce Fenton, CEO of CEO Chainstone Labs. Adding,

“This is huge – $5 million is significant enough to attract much larger and more high quality issuers. The small business sector will be rebuilt — this is a step to accelerate that. Reg CF also sidesteps the accredited requirement- an antiquated thorn in the side of innovation.”

The change in the rules is the newest assistance to small and medium-size corporations following the expansion of accredited investors’ definition in August.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said the rule would “improve effectivity and facilitate capital formation,” and that it might cut back regulatory prices and burdens for corporations.

“Huge for companies from non-tech hub cities, underrepresented founders, and less sexy industries,” said Ryan Selkis of Messari.

Meanwhile, Shehan Chandrasekera, Head of Tax Strategy CoinTracker, says this brings a better alternative for crypto companies that usually goes the route of Initial Coin Offering (ICI), Initial Exchange Offering (IEO), and venture capital.

“REG Crowdfunding limit went up to 5M from 1M per SEC. A better alternative to an ICO or IEO,” he said.

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Author: AnTy

SEC Goes After John McAfee, Who Made Over $23 Million in Fraudulent ICO Promotions

SEC’s next target, finally, is John McAfee. In just a week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission went after BitMEX, and the 74-year-old software magnate turned crypto bull.

McAfee was reportedly nabbed in Spain today and is now facing extradition to the US over charges of fraud for promoting initial coin offering (ICO) and tax evasion, facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count of it.

McAfee earned millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies and other activities and failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018, “despite receiving considerable income from these sources,” as per the indictment.

The cybersecurity entrepreneur allegedly evaded his tax liability by directing his income to be paid into crypto exchange accounts and bank accounts in the names of nominees. The DOJ also details that they didn’t find any connection with the “anti-virus company bearing his name.”

While DOJ’s charges against McAfee are a bit dry, SEC’s 55-page filing is far more interesting that details McAfee’s alleged fraudulent activity promoting several ICOs throughout 2017 and 2018. The SEC complaint reads,

“McAfee leveraged his fame to make more than $23.1 million U.S. Dollars (“USD”) in undisclosed compensation by recommending at least seven “initial coin offerings” or ICOs to his Twitter followers. The ICOs involved the offer and sale of digital asset securities and McAfee’s recommendations were materially false and misleading for several reasons.”

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The suit doesn’t mention the name of the ICOs but points out that he did not disclose that he was being paid for ICO promotions, violating federal security laws, and even lied to investors by falsely denying that he was paid by the issuers.

He also falsely claimed himself as the investor and technical advisor when in reality, his tweets “were paid promotions disguised as impartial investment advice.”

SEC claims McAfee’s bodyguard, Defendant Watson, also substantially assisted him in his schemes and negotiated the deals with ICO issuers for which he was paid at least $316,000.

McAfee himself received over $11.6 million in Bitcoin and Ether and an additional $11.5 million worth of promoted tokens, “as undisclosed compensation for his promotions of seven ICOs.”

The lawsuit also mentions John McAfee promising to “eat my d**k on national television” if his $1 million BTC price prediction didn’t pan out, which of course, didn’t and later he called it a “ruse.”

The SEC is seeking to get the defendants to pay civil monetary penalties, prohibiting them from participating, directly or indirectly, in the issuance, purchase, offer, or sale of any digital asset security, disgorge all ill-gotten gains received, and to get the investors appropriate relief.

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Author: AnTy

Chairman Jay Clayton: The SEC is Open to Tokenizing ETFs Despite Recent Clampdowns

The Chair of the U.S Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Jay Clayton, has said that the agency is open to discussing tokenized exchange-traded funds (ETFs). He was speaking at a Chamber of Digital Commerce webinar held on Oct 2, where he highlighted that ‘It may very well be the case that […stocks] all become tokenized.’

Despite a struggle to stay in the loop on crypto innovations, the latest sentiments by Clayton signal SEC’s openness to its underlying potential. A tokenized ETF will allow American investors to access stock indices in the form of tokens, hence Clayton’s futuristic view of integrating traditional instruments with modern-day tech ‘tokenization.’ Clayton said in a Decrypt report,

“We’re willing to try that; our door is wide open. If you want to show how to tokenize the ETF product in a way that adds efficiency, we want to meet with you, we want to facilitate that.”

SEC Actions Paint a Different Picture

While the SEC Chair appears to have taken an open stance towards tokenization, the agency’s recent clampdowns on crypto businesses state otherwise. Some industry players that have faced the SEC wrath this year include Abra, a crypto investment platform that offers clients stocks in tokenized versions. The firm was fined around $300,000, split between CFTC and SEC, given that both agencies were pursuing Abra.

Other than the clampdowns, SEC has rejected several Bitcoin ETFs citing that the BTC price can easily be manipulated. Clayton said,

”We got off on the wrong foot in this innovation. There was the theory that because it was so efficient because it could have had so much promise, we could toss aside some of those principles of responsibility and transparency.”

He was eager to note that the SEC has to stay true to its role by identifying product launch issuers in America’s financial markets. On this, he further mentioned that they are still in pursuit of ICO issuers who might have breached U.S securities regulations during the ICO boom in 2017. It also appears the SEC is entirely against the narrative of ‘payment networks,’ but instead views ETF’s a financing vehicle,

“What we don’t like is when someone says, ‘you know, the function is payments … Don’t pretend that it’s a payment system when it’s actually a financing vehicle.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

SEC Takes a ‘Big Step Forward’ Regarding Broker-Dealers Trading Digital Asset Securities

In a no-action letter dated Sept. 25 from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the agency has released guidance on the settlement of digital asset securities at alternative systems, which “could end up being significant news for exchanges, including DEXs.”

The SEC proposes a “three-step process” for ATS trading that might replace the previous four-step process that FINRA and the SEC instructed broker-dealers to follow. Dating back to the July 2019 statement from the SEC, the letter outlined the factors to be considered to allow ATS operators to facilitate the trade of digital securities.

In the latest process, The broker-dealer custodian can inform the customer about the execution of trades after the fact as such, customers can submit the trade orders and confirmation at the same time, which “doesn’t change much for trading in the industry,” said Brian Farber.

According to the letter, this three-step process would “reduce operational and settlement risk.” Lewis Cohen, founder of blockchain-focused law firm DLxLaw tweeted,

“In the 3-step approach, customers are never exposed to a BD/ATS, so CPR doesn’t apply. It may sound obvious, but still a big step forward.”

Moreover, enforcement action won’t be taken if the broker-dealer operator maintains a minimum of $250,000 in net capital, all applicable securities laws are followed, and an agreement between the broker and their customers states that “broker-dealer operator does not guarantee or otherwise have responsibility for settling the trades.”

This means custodial broker-dealers like Coinbase can legally exchange digital securities without the SEC pursuing enforcement action against them, provided the above-mentioned steps are followed.

According to Farber, it raises new questions such as the undefined term “custodian,” which not every holder uses. The mandate for $250k in net capital would require amending a membership agreement with FINRA. At the same time, the 2019 joint statement clearly prohibits those broker-dealers from custodial functions.

Comptroller Brian Brooks of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency praised the move.

Drew Hinkes, an attorney at US law firm Carlton Fields also tweeted that the big picture is “It got easier to trade digital asset securities. BDs have certainty as to how to trade digital asset securities (and) Custodians are even MORE important.”

But still, there is no clear way to determine which cryptos are security and legal to trade. As such, more clarity and guidance is needed from the SEC.

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Author: AnTy

Nigeria to Regulate Cryptocurrency Trading; SEC Says Digital Assets Are Securities

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Nigeria will start regulating trade in digital currencies to ensure investor protection and that transactions are transparent. The authorities said on Monday,

“The general objective of regulation is not to hinder technology or stifle innovation, but to create standards that encourage ethical practices.”

The agency said it’ is required to regulate “when the character of the investments qualifies as securities transactions.”

In the past, the West African nation declined to recognize digital currencies as legal tender. In 2018, the Central Bank of Nigeria said that cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), XRP, Monero (XMR), and Onecoin, weren’t considered money.

The Abuja-based regulator said in a statement that it views digital currencies as exchangeable securities and that the issuers or sponsors of these virtual assets “shall be guided by the commission’s regulation.”

The country is now coming to acknowledge the growing presence of digital assets, and Ayodeji Ebo, managing director at Afrinvest securities in Lagos, said, “the earlier it is regulated, the less havoc on the economy.”

“It’s another way to provide alternative assets to investors,” he told Bloomberg.

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Author: AnTy

SEC Charges Rapper T.I. & Four Others for Promoting Fraudulent ICO, FLiK

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Atlanta-based rapper Clifford Harris, Jr., better known as T.I., and four others for promoting an unregistered and fraudulent initial coin offerings (ICO).

T.I. promoted FLiK tokens in 2017 to his social media followers, falsely stating that he was a co-owner of the project boasted as “Netflix on the blockchain.” The platform was advertised as a streaming media platform with products that can be purchased with digital tokens, the SEC said in a statement on Friday.

The 39-year old rapper has agreed to pay the penalty of $75,000.

As per SEC’s order, he is not allowed to participate in offerings or sales of digital-asset securities for at least five years.

The company’s founder, a film producer, named Ryan Felton, who started FLiK and CoinSpark, is meanwhile facing claims that he misappropriated the raised funds to buy Ferrari, a million-dollar home, and other luxury goods.

“Felton victimized investors through material misrepresentations, misappropriation of their funds, and manipulative trading,” said Carolyn M. Welshhans, Associate Director in the Division of Enforcement.

The complaint alleges that Felton secretly transferred FLiK tokens to himself and gained an additional $2.2 million in profits by selling them into the market.

Previously, boxer Floyd Mayweather and music producer DJ Khaled have also been sued by the regulators for hyping the ICOs.

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Author: AnTy

Hong Kong Regulator to Grant Fidelity-backed OSL Digital the First Crypto Exchange License

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong will be issuing a license to cryptocurrency firm OSL Digital Securities, reported Reuters.

OSL, a unit of Fidelity-backed BC Group, became the first firm in November last year to apply for a digital license under the market regulator’s new rules allowing cryptocurrency exchanges to opt into regulation.

The company revealed in its exchange filing on Friday that the financial regulator has agreed in principle to grant the license.

The final approval, however, is subject to certain conditions, which “you’d expect from a conservative regulator in a financial hub,” said BC Group CEO Hugh Madden.

OSL and some of its competitors to welcome the regulation as it would enable the regulated institutions to reduce their risk by engaging with other regulated risks.

In the first half of 2020, BC Group made a net loss of 90.8 million yuan ($13.13 million). Besides its crypto business, which accounts for the company’s bulk of revenue, it also provides business parks and advertising services.

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Author: AnTy

Germany’s Financial Authorities Introduce A Draft Bill On Blockchain Based Securities

  • Germany’s financial authorities aim at introducing electronic securities to modernize its regulatory and supervisory capabilities with blockchain technology playing a pivotal role, the draft bill states.

The German finance ministry, Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF), and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) have introduced a bill on August 11 on digitizing securities on blockchains. According to the official statement, the authorities aim to introduce a new law on electronic securities (eWpG).

Currently, financial instruments in Germany, classified as securities under civil law, must be securitized in a paper form document. The paper document allows buyers and sellers a point of contact to transfer the securities legally. The BMF and BMJV draft bill aims at replacing this paper form contract into an electronic system in a bid to improve the marketability of legal securities. The statement reads:

“To ensure the marketability of securities and legal compliance, however, it requires a suitable replacement of the paper document, for example, by an entry in a register-based on the blockchain technology.”

According to the draft bill, the introduction of blockchain technology will improve the overall liquidity of securities markets while providing regulatory clarity. The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority will be the leading monitoring and maintenance agency of these blockchain-based electronic stocks.

The draft bill further differentiates between central electronic securities register by a central securities depository and registers kept for issuing electronic bonds on distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) and other electronic bases.

With the introduction of blockchain-based e-stocks, Germany aims to strengthen its market for stocks while improving the overall securities industry. Introducing blockchains will also increase transparency, market integrity, and investor protection, the bill states.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Crypto Mom, Hester Peirce, Secures Second Term as SEC Commissioner Through 2025

The US Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Hester Peirce, aka “Crypto Mom,” has been confirmed for a second term that will last till June 5, 2025, by the US Senate in a voice vote.

The “Crypto Mom” nickname was bestowed upon her by the crypto community for her support of the cryptocurrency market. Just last month, during her testimony in the nomination hearing, she maintained that stance as she said crypto is “clearly going to be here to stay, and I would like us to set up a regulatory framework that works well for crypto.”

Pierce wants to work on SEC’s “attitude towards innovation,” which she said is highlighted in their consideration of crypto.

Earlier this year, she proposed a three-year safe harbor for blockchain companies that conduct token sales. Here, she talked about SEC oversight and adherence to disclosure standards while allowing the firms to develop a network and work toward decentralization before being subject to the Howey test.

She is also an advocate for the approval of a bitcoin ETF, which has been rejected numerous times on the round of price manipulation. In February, in a dissenting statement, Pierce objected to SEC’s approach to these products and that “it evinces a stubborn stodginess in the face of innovation.”

As we reported, with the potential of SEC Chairman Jay Clayton moving to the US Attorney’s office, Pierce is also speculated to be the next SEC Chair.

“On behalf of our 4,500 dedicated colleagues, we applaud their long-standing commitment to investors and look forward to their continued work to advance the SEC’s vital mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation,” Clayton and fellow commissioners congratulated Pierce and Caroline A. Crenshaw.

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Author: AnTy