Law of the Ledger

U.S. state and federal lawmakers, as well as federal regulators, are increasingly focusing on the role of blockchain and distributed ledger technology in ongoing efforts to combat climate change and to facilitate the transition from carbon-based fossil fuels.

There have been several key developments in the recent weeks at the state and federal level, covering two broad categories:

(1) Initiatives targeting carbon emissions associated with data mining operations, including New York State legislation to temporarily halt certain carbon-powered cryptocurrency mining operations and a U.S. Senate bill calling on federal agencies to report on the impact of such mining operations on
Continue Reading Lawmakers and Regulators Examine Role of Blockchain Technology in Energy Transitions

We have previously addressed the recent indictment against Nathaniel Chastain, a former executive of a major NFT marketplace, for insider trading involving NFTs. The indictment charges Chastain with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. It does not allege that the NFT is a security. It does not allege violation of the insider trading laws under securities law. Since then, as we have reported, that SEC has been investigating lack of insider trading policies for NFT/crypto exchanges.
Continue Reading NFT Insider Trading – Can There Be A Crime If It’s Not A Security?

It is well known that insider trading—the practice of buying and selling stocks, bonds, or other securities based on material, non-public information—is unlawful. For that reason, many companies have compliance programs and policies that restrict trading by officers, directors, employees or other “insiders” with access to such information. 
Continue Reading NFT Insider Trading Compliance Policies – What They Cover and Why You Need One

A class action lawsuit filed by users of a decentralized finance (“DeFi”) protocol managed by a decentralized autonomous organization, or “DAO,” may shed light on the potential legal liabilities of a DAO and its participants. The complaint in Sarcuni v. bZx DAO, No. 22-cv-0618 (S.D. Cal. May 2, 2022), highlights several issues related to DAO liability of which DAO participants should be aware. There is a common misperception that an unincorporated DAO is not subject to liability because there is no entity for regulators to pursue. The fact is that such DAOs may be deemed general partnerships and the
Continue Reading DAO Liability and the bZx Class Action

Sheppard Mullin is pleased to announce the launch of The Legit Ledger, a new podcast hosted by Sheppard Mullin’s Blockchain and Fintech industry team members (including partners Jim Gatto, Yasamin Parsafar, and associate Gabe Khoury) that focuses on blockchain-related legal issues and practical tips for keeping things legit. Various episodes of The Legit Ledger will feature interviews with a thought leader from the blockchain industry, including CEOs, leading attorneys, financial advisors, and technology professionals who have hands-on experience with this complex and evolving area of the law.

“The Legit Ledger is an innovative combination of legal analysis and practical advice from blockchain
Continue Reading The Legit Ledger Launches: New Podcast Provides Insights and Practical Tips on Blockchain-Related Legal Issues

In May, we saw a slower month for crypto enforcement actions by state and federal regulators. See our March 2022 Crypto Enforcement Actions Roundup blog here where we discuss the regulatory guidance and jurisdiction of federal and state agencies to enforce these matters.

Federal and State Updates

Securities and Enforcement Commission (SEC)

On May 3, the SEC announced “the allocation of 20 additional positions to the unit responsible for protecting investors in crypto markets and from cyber-related threats.” Accordingly, the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit in the Division of Enforcement will be expanded to “50 dedicated positions.”The Crypto Assets and
Continue Reading May 2022 Crypto Enforcement Actions and Regulatory Guidance Roundup

On May 6, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a cryptocurrency mixer, Blender.io, as a Specially Designated National (SDN). That sanction follows a series of enforcements and sanctions which we have previously discussed here and here.
Continue Reading The Crypto Enthusiast and The Regulator: What OFAC is, Could Be, and Should Be Doing to Regulate CryptoCurrencies

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging Nathaniel Chastain with wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to commit insider trading in Non-Fungible Tokens, or “NFTs,” by using confidential information about what NFTs were going to be featured on [the marketplace] homepage for his personal financial gain.  Chastain was arrested this morning in New York.  
Continue Reading Former NFT Marketplace Employee Charged with Insider Trading

While the crypto community is rightfully focused on the Ripple case to see how the SEC will fare in court on enforcements alleging cryptocurrency offerings are a security, a lesser-known case may provide clarity first. The SEC’s suit against LBRY is scheduled for trial in September 2022.
Continue Reading Securities and Exchange Commission V. LBRY; Is Your Crypto Project Illegal?

The rise of blockchain, metaverse and Web3 technologies has lead to rapid adoption across all sectors of the economy. The government sector is no exception. Perhaps one of the most compelling examples is the recent announcement that the US military is building its own metaverse.
Continue Reading Blockchain and Metaverse Legal Issues for the Government and Government Contractors

In an apparent follow up to President Biden’s March Executive Order on Digital Assets (which we previously discussed here), this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a similar executive order aiming to foster responsible innovation, bolster California’s innovation economy, and strengthen consumer protection through creating a transparent regulatory and business environment for Web3 companies.  Newsom’s executive order credits Biden’s executive order as paving the way for the assessment of key issues raised by crypto-assets and sets California on a path to harmonize its nascent crypto regulatory framework with forthcoming federal rules and guidelines and, hopefully, create regulatory clarity for
Continue Reading Governor Newsom Signs Blockchain Executive Order

This January, Adrienne A. Harris was confirmed as superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, which administers New York’s BitLicense program, among others.  In a March 28 interview, Harris discussed the BitLicense program in detail and addressed some of its longstanding issues, including its slow response times to applicants and updating some of the outdated regulatory and operational aspects of the program.
Continue Reading New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services Addresses BitLicense Delays

A recent class-action lawsuit alleges that the “Uniswap Protocol” exchange is one of the largest crypto-asset exchanges in the world, which permits the  unlawful promotion, offer, and sale of crypto tokens as unregistered securities. According to the complaint, Uniswap has no barriers to entry for users looking to trade or swap crypto tokens on the exchange.  It requires no verification of an individual’s identity and conducts no “know-your-customer” (KYC) process, leading to rampant fraud. The complaint further alleges that Uniswap has enriched itself and the other defendants (including its VC backers) by collecting fees for issuers on every transaction
Continue Reading Uniswap and VC Backers Sued For Selling Unregistered Securities

As the world economy increasingly goes digital, innovators and existing market participants are finding new ways to tokenize assets and expand upon their uses, particularly with non-fungible tokens (NFTs).  NFTs have commonly been used to represent digital art, photos, videos, audio files, collectibles, game items, tickets, and other digital assets, but can also represent virtually any digital or physical asset as well as entitlements (e.g., tickets, subscriptions, exclusive access, etc.).
Continue Reading Tokenization and the Law: Legal Issues with NFTs