October 22, 2021

Volume XI, Number 295

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SEC Sanctions Operator of Unregistered Virtual Currency Exchanges

On December 8, the Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned a computer programmer for operating two online exchanges that traded securities using virtual currencies without registering them as broker-dealers or stock exchanges. The programmer, Ethan Burnside, operated the two exchanges through his company, BTC Trading Corp., from August 2012 to October 2013. Account holders were able to purchase securities in virtual currency businesses using bitcoins on BTC Virtual Stock Exchange and using litecoins on LTC-Global Virtual Stock Exchange. The exchanges were not registered as broker-dealers but solicited the public to open accounts and trade securities. The exchanges also were not registered as stock exchanges but enlisted issuers to offer securities to the public for purchase and sale. Burnside also offered shares in LTC-Global Virtual Stock Exchange itself, as well as interests in a separate Litecoin mining venture, LTC-Mining, in exchange for virtual currencies. The SEC charged Burnside with willful violations of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Burnside and BTC Trading Corp. with willful violations of Sections 5 and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Burnside cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and settled, paying more than $68,000 in profits plus interest and a penalty. The SEC also barred Burnside from the securities industry.

The action may indicate that the SEC is taking a closer look at decentralized platforms for trading virtual currency using cryptocurrency technology, but the SEC has neither confirmed nor denied such speculation. In recent months, the SEC has reportedly sent voluntary information requests to companies and online “crypto-equity exchanges” offering equity and related interests denominated in virtual currency and websites offering digital tokens for programming platforms. A discussion of the SEC’s voluntary information sweep is available here

Click here to read the SEC Press Release and here to read the SEC order.

©2021 Katten Muchin Rosenman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 347
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About this Author

Michael Rosensaft, white collar criminal litigator, Katten, New York Law Firm
Partner

Michael M. Rosensaft focuses his litigation practice on representing individuals and businesses in white collar criminal matters, regulatory enforcement matters, corporate internal investigations, insurance and health care fraud and complex civil litigation.

Prior to joining Katten, he served as an Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In that capacity, Michael oversaw the investigation and prosecution of numerous criminal cases involving terrorism, international money laundering, export violations, bribery of foreign...

212-940-6631
Claudia Callaway, Litigation Lawyer, Katten Muchin
Partner

Claudia Callaway is chair of Katten’s Consumer Finance Litigation practice and co-chair of the Class Action and Multidistrict Litigation practice. She focuses her practice on the defense of state and federal class actions regarding consumer protection and consumer finance laws and representation of clients before the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state banking agencies.

Claudia represents consumer lenders, third-party debt collectors and other consumer  financial services clients in class action suits and...

202-625-3590
Robert Loewy, Tax Legal Specialist, Katten Muchin Law firm
Special Counsel

Robert Loewy concentrates his practice in tax planning and litigation.

Robert advises domestic and foreign clients on a broad range of US and international tax issues. His practice is both transactional and advisory, focusing on the taxation of financial instruments and products, hedge funds and private clients. He also has extensive experience in advising clients as to the tax consequences of domestic and cross-border mergers, acquisitions and restructurings.

212-940-6303
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