Financial services is perhaps the most regulated industry in the world, and the intersection between financial services, technology, and law remains a complicated and evolving space. A team of Morgan Lewis lawyers recently attended the 2023 Money 20/20 conference and previewed some major themes and trends that the industry can expect in 2024.
All Things FinReg
LATEST REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS IMPACTING
THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) took another tepid step into the digital asset space on August 8, announcing that it has established a program to “enhance the supervision of novel activities conducted by banking organizations supervised” by the Federal Reserve. In addition, the Federal Reserve issued guidance explaining the supervisory nonobjection process for state member banks “seeking to engage in certain activities involving tokens denominated in national currencies and issued using distributed ledger technology or similar technologies to facilitate payments.”
New York has enhanced its fraud prevention tools, while consumers can identify crypto scams using California’s scam tracker. A week after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed amendments to cover cryptoassets under the Custody Rule applicable to investment advisers, federal banking agencies issued a statement reminding banks of their risk management obligations in connection with holding crypto companies’ deposits. The United Kingdom is considering fund tokenization, particularly as it relates to retail investors, and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission is gearing up for a crypto exchange platform licensing regime while considering whether retail investors should trade on licensed crypto platforms.
In the continuation of our new blog series highlighting recent developments in the digital asset space, this post details continued action policy and enforcement actions by US regulators.
In this new series, we will provide an overview of recent noteworthy developments in the digital asset space around the world. The start of February was a busy period for regulators in the United States, where the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled charges against an exchange in connection with its staking services and where other regulators issued digital asset guidance. Both the United Kingdom and Dubai Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority introduced plans to regulate digital asset activities. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority released a framework for stablecoin regulation, but it is unclear whether a new law will be adopted or existing laws will be amended to incorporate the framework.
In the depth of a crypto winter, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued guidance (the Guidance) on custodial standards for those with a BitLicense or that are registered as New York state limited purpose trust companies that engage in virtual currency (VC) business activity (VC Trust Companies and, together with BitLicensees, VC Custodians). In addition to providing customer segregation and compliance standards, DFS also announced in the Guidance its position that a VC Custodian that enters into a sub-custody arrangement must obtain prior DFS approval before the arrangement’s implementation.
The US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on December 20, 2022, that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) properly served the defendant, Ooki DAO, by posting summons documents in Ooki DAO’s online discussion forum and in its help chat box. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Ooki DAO, No. 3:22-cv-05416-WHO, 2022 BL 454541, 2022 U.S. Dist. Lexis 228820 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2022), Court Opinion (the Order).
The FDIC Board of Directors issued a proposal on December 13 amending and updating the rules regarding the use of the official FDIC sign and advertising statements to better reflect the modern consumer banking landscape. As noted in a memorandum from the FDIC staff, the update is also meant to address the growth of the fintech sector and partnerships between banks and fintechs. The proposed rule also seeks to clarify instances when FDIC deposit insurance coverage is being misrepresented to consumers.
Just shy of a month since FTX declared bankruptcy, the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Division of Corporation Finance (Division or staff) published informal guidance on how public companies could be asked to address the possible impact of financial distress in the cryptoasset market. The guidance includes a “sample” crypto-specific comment letter focused on disclosure that public companies should consider providing in filings made under the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), as applicable.
FINRA has announced that it is conducting a targeted examination of broker-dealer practices related to retail communications about “crypto asset” products and services. As part of this sweep, FINRA is asking broker-dealers for all retail communications that were distributed or made available by a broker-dealer or its affiliates on behalf of the broker-dealer that refer or relate to crypto assets or services involving crypto transactions or the holding of cryptocurrency during the period of July 1, 2022, to September 30, 2022.