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  • FINRA releases 2018 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter

    Securities

    On January 8, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) published its Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter (2018 Letter), which focused on several broad issues within the securities industry, including improving the examination program to “implement a risk-based framework designed to better align examination resources to the risk profile of [] member firms.” As previously covered in InfoBytes, last July FINRA360 (a comprehensive self-evaluation and organizational improvement initiative) prompted the organization to announce plans currently underway to enhance operations by consolidating its existing enforcement teams into a single unit. In the 2018 Letter, FINRA announced ongoing efforts to work with member firms to understand the risks and benefits of fintech innovation such as blockchain technology, as well as the impact initial coin offerings (ICOs) and digital currencies have on broker-dealers.

    Additional areas of regulatory and examination focus for FINRA in 2018 will include: (i) fraudulent activities and suspicious activity report filing requirements; (ii) business continuity planning; (iii) protection and verification of customer assets, including whether firms have implemented adequate controls and supervision methods along with measuring the effectiveness of cybersecurity programs; (iv) anti-money laundering monitoring and surveillance resources and policies and procedures; and (v) the role firms and other registered representatives play when effecting transactions in cryptocurrencies and ICOs—specifically with regard to the supervisory, compliance and operational infrastructure firms implement to “ensure compliance with relevant federal securities laws and regulations and FINRA rules.”

    Securities Fintech FINRA Examination Fraud Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Anti-Money Laundering Initial Coin Offerings Virtual Currency SARs Blockchain Financial Crimes

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  • Chair Giancarlo outlines CFTC approach to virtual currency regulation

    Fintech

    On January 4, the Chair of the CFTC, J. Christopher Giancarlo, issued a statement emphasizing the CFTC’s commitment to effectively regulating virtual currency and reiterated the CFTC’s view that virtual currency is a “commodity,” as defined by the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), and thus is subject to CFTC regulation. Giancarlo noted that it would be irresponsible to ignore virtual currency and that the CFTC is following steps to effectively and responsibly regulate the risks, specifically, “consumer education, asserting CFTC authority, surveilling trading in derivative and spot markets, prosecuting fraud, abuse, manipulation and false solicitation and active coordination with fellow regulators.” Giancarlo’s statement also noted an upcoming meeting of the CFTC Technology Advisory Committee to discuss virtual currencies on January 23.

    The CFTC also published a backgrounder on the oversight of the virtual currency futures market, which describes the “heightened review” for the self-certification process as applied to virtual currency futures products, and explains the extent to which the CFTC “not only has clear legal authority, but now also will have the means to police certain underlying spot markets for fraud and manipulation.”

    Fintech Virtual Currency CFTC Bitcoin

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  • FSOC Publishes 2017 Annual Report, Highlights Cybersecurity and Financial Innovation Risks

    Fintech

    On December 14, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released its 2017 annual report. The report reviews financial market developments, identifies emerging risks, and offers recommendations to enhance financial stability. Highlights include:

    • Cybersecurity.  The report notes that financial institutions need to work with regulators to improve cybersecurity resilience and better understand risks. FSOC encourages the creation of a private sector council of senior executives to work with government officials and focus on ways cyber incidents may affect business operations.
    • Marketplace Lending. FSOC acknowledges that marketplace lending is still an evolving model with potential risks, such as the misalignment of incentives. However, the report notes the platform’s potential to reduce costs and expand access to credit.
    • New Technology. The report discusses challenges for supervision and regulation of virtual currencies and distributed ledger technology. FSOC observes that current regulatory practices were designed for more centralized systems, in comparison to the decentralization of data storage in this new landscape.

    Fintech Virtual Currency FSOC Bitcoin Department of Treasury Marketplace Lending Third-Party Distributed Ledger

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  • CFTC Issues Proposed Interpretation of “Actual Delivery” in Virtual Currency Transactions; Launches Virtual Currency Resource Page

    Fintech

    On December 15, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced a proposed interpretation concerning its authority over transactions involving virtual currency, which includes its view regarding the term “actual delivery” in the context of retail virtual currency transactions. According to the proposed interpretation, the CFTC claims that it has “explicit oversight authority” over “retail commodity transactions” under Section 2(c)(2)(D) of the Commodity Exchange Act. Applying a broad definition of the term virtual currency, the CFTC believes that these type of currencies are commodities, which means that certain transactions in virtual currencies are subject to CFTC oversight.

    The proposed interpretation sets forth two primary factors that market participants must demonstrate to prove “actual delivery” of virtual currency in connection with retail commodity transactions:

    • a customer has the ability to “(i) take possession and control of the entire quantity of the commodity, whether it was purchased on margin, or using leverage, or any other financing arrangement, and (ii) use it freely in commerce (both within and away from any particular platform) no later than 28 days from the date of the transaction”; and
    • “the offeror and counterparty seller (including any of their respective affiliates or other persons acting in concert with the offeror or counterparty seller on a similar basis) does not retain any interest in or control over any of the commodity purchased on margin, leverage, or other financing arrangement at the expiration of 28 days from the date of the transaction.”

    Comments on the proposed regulation must be received on or before March 20, 2018.

    In October, the CFTC’s LabCFTC released “A CFTC Primer on Virtual Currencies,” which discusses potential use-cases for virtual currencies, outlines the agency’s role and oversight of virtual currencies, and highlights the risks associated with virtual currencies. The CFTC also launched its own webpage with virtual currency resources and a customer advisory warning of the risks of virtual currency trading.

    Fintech Virtual Currency CFTC Federal Register Bitcoin

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  • Judge Dismisses OCC Fintech Charter Challenge

    Fintech

    A U.S. District Court Judge dismissed the New York Department of Financial Services’ (NYDFS) challenge to the OCC’s proposed federal charter for fintech firms.  (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) In the December 12 order, the judge agreed with the OCC that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over NYDFS’ claims because the OCC has yet to finalized its plans to actually issue fintech charters. The case was dismissed without prejudice.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) has also filed a lawsuit, which challenges the same statutory authority allowing the OCC to create charters for fintech companies. The CSBS lawsuit is still active. 

    Fintech Courts OCC NYDFS Litigation

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  • SEC Obtains Emergency Court Order Against Canadian Firm for Allegedly Violating Federal Securities Law; Halts Initial Coin Offering

    Securities

    On December 4, the SEC announced it had obtained an emergency court order to freeze the assets of a Canadian company and the company’s founders (Defendants) and block Defendants’ ability to continue to raise funds through an initial coin offering (ICO). At the time the order was issued, the ICO had raised $15 million since August by “promising investors returns of 1,354% in under 29 days.” This is the first enforcement action taken by the SEC’s recently established Cyber Unit, whose focus includes distributed ledger technology and initial coin offering violations. (See previous InfoBytes Cyber Unit coverage here.)

    According to a complaint filed December 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Defendants allegedly violated the anti-fraud and registration provisions of U.S. federal securities laws by making a series of materially false and misleading statements when marketing and selling securities as digital tokens/cryptocurrencies to obtain investor funds. From August to the present, Defendants purportedly raised $15 million through the ICO, and made false representations including, among other things, that: (i) the firm consisted of large teams of experts across the globe, and (ii) investors would receive certain promised returns (1,354% in less than a month) on investments if all tokens were sold. Further, Defendants allegedly failed to disclose (i) that a portion of the proceeds from the ICO funds would pay personal expenses, and (ii) that the company’s principal executive was “a known recidivist securities law violator in Canada.” The SEC seeks relief in the form of permanent injunctions, monetary penalties and interest, and an “officer-and-director bar and a bar from offering digital securities” against the company’s founders.

    Securities SEC Initial Coin Offerings Enforcement Blockchain Cryptocurrency Fintech Virtual Currency Distributed Ledger

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  • Federal Reserve Governor Calls for Collaboration Between Regulators, Banks, Data Aggregators, and Fintech Firms for Financial Data Sharing Standards

    Fintech

    On November 16, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard spoke at a fintech conference sponsored by the University of Michigan regarding consumers’ right to understand and control how their financial data is used by third-party aggregators, and in developing fintech technology. “There's an increasing recognition that consumers need better information about the terms of their relationships with aggregators, more control over what is shared, and the ability to terminate the relationship,” Brainard noted. “Consumers should have relatively simple means of being able to consent to what data are being shared and at what frequency. And consumers should be able to stop data sharing and request the deletion of data that have been stored.”

    Brainard emphasized that regulators, data aggregators, bank partners, and fintech developers should jointly develop a common, consistent message for how customer data is shared and protected within the fintech space and “other areas experiencing significant technological change.” As previously reported in InfoBytes, on October 18, the CFPB issued principles concerning the security and transparency of financial data sharing when companies—including fintech firms—get authorization from consumers to access their account data that reside in separate organizations to provide products and services.

    Fintech Federal Reserve Consumer Finance Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security EFTA CFPB Third-Party

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  • Small Business Economic Hearing on Financing Through Fintech

    Fintech

    On October 26, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access (Subcommittee) held a hearing entitled, “Financing Through Fintech: Online Lending’s Role in Improving Small Business Capital Access” to understand how small businesses obtain capital, examine various industry business models, and discuss the impacts of online lending in the marketplace. In introductory remarks, Subcommittee Chairman, Dave Brat (R-VA), identified small business access to capital as a top priority for the Subcommittee and noted that small businesses are increasingly looking to online lending as a means to access credit instead of traditional sources.  The full list of witnesses and testimony is available here.

    Fintech Federal Issues House Small Business Committee

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  • CSBS Announces Membership of Fintech Advisory Panel

    Fintech

    On October 19, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that 33 financial technology companies have agreed to serve on the CSBS Fintech Industry Advisory Panel. The goal of the panel is to identify ways to help modernize the state regulatory system.   According to CSBS, the 33 participating companies range from start-ups to national brands and represent differing industry sectors, as well as, geographic locations and business models. The advisory panel will have three working groups, (i) money transmission and payments; (ii) lending; and (iii) community banking and innovation.

    A complete list of the panel’s membership is here.

    Fintech State Regulators CSBS

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  • Federal Reserve Governor Calls for Collaboration Between Banks and Fintech Firms for Safe and Secure Payment System

    Fintech

    On October 18, Federal Reserve Board Governor, Jerome H. Powell, spoke at the 41st Annual Central Banking Seminar regarding the impact of technology on retail banking and payment services. Powell noted that rapidly changing technology for more timely and convenient payment methods, “should not come at the cost of a safe and secure payment system. . .” In doing so, he encouraged banks, fintech companies, and all other stakeholders in the industry to collaborate to achieve a payment system that is reliable, secure, and convenient.

    Powell went on to highlight the work of the Faster Payments Task Force (as previously covered by InfoBytes) and the Secure Payments Task Force. For secure payments, he discussed the Federal Reserve’s plan to launch a study analyzing payment security vulnerabilities in early 2018 and its plan to establish work groups focused on approaches for reducing the prevalence and cost of specific payment security vulnerabilities.

    As covered by InfoBytes, the OCC Acting Comptroller of Currency, Keith A. Noreika, also recently spoke about the continuing innovation of banks and fintech companies within the financial technology sector.

    Fintech Federal Issues Federal Reserve Payments Consumer Finance

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