Investment Company Act

The SEC issued an order approving the applications of 11 different spot Bitcoin exchange-traded products to each list and trade their shares on a national securities exchange. This order represents the first time that the SEC has permitted the listing of an exchange-traded product that invests directly in a cryptocurrency

2021 continued the trend of increased regulatory focus on privacy and cybersecurity for private investment funds in the U.S. and abroad. There are no signs of the trend leveling off any time soon.

One of the topics that captured our attention last year was the rise of ransomware. As previously shared, ransomware has evolved from merely encrypting files/disabling networks in solicitation of ransom, to sophisticated attacks penetrating data systems and debilitating entities.  Thus, while money continues to be an obvious motivator for these attacks, increasingly so is the pursuit of intellectual property and data.  Regulatory agencies have responded to combat the increase in attacks. For example, in October 2020, OFAC issued an Advisory declaring that any payment made to a sanctioned entity on OFAC’s list would be a violation of federal sanctions regulations and the paying entity would be strictly liable. Importantly, this means that the intent of the victim, and the knowledge as to whether the entity is on OFAC’s list, is no defense. While OFAC intends to decrease ransomware attack compliance through the issuance of its list of sanctioned entities, the nature of ransomware makes it difficult for the victim of an attack to be able to identify what entity is actually being paid.  This ambiguity may cause victims of ransomware attacks to unintentionally violate OFAC’s sanctions and be held strictly liable despite the publication of a list of sanctioned entities.

Fund managers take note – after over a year of warning, this month the SEC announced a pair of settlement orders with respect to registration requirements for a fund and broker dealer operating in the crypto and digital assets space. It was the agency’s first ever enforcement actions applying the investment company and broker-dealer registration provisions of the securities laws to businesses involved in digital securities. As we’ve written on Proskauer’s Blockchain and the Law blog, we expect to see the SEC continue to expand its oversight of digital assets as securities.