On August 9, 2021, the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order against digital asset exchange Poloniex, Inc. for allegedly operating an unregistered exchange in violation of Section 5 of the Exchange Act in connection with its operation of a trading platform that facilitated the buying and selling of digital asset securities.[1]

In the cease-and-desist order, the SEC alleged that Poloniex met the definition of an “exchange” because it “provided the non-discretionary means for trade orders to interact and execute through the combined use of the Poloniex website, an order book, and the Poloniex trading engine.”  The SEC also found, based on internal communications, that Poloniex decided to be “aggressive,” ultimately listing token(s) it had internally determined carried a “medium” risk of being considered securities under the Securities Act of 1933 pursuant to the test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in SEC v. W.J. Howey.[2]  However, the SEC did not identify what digital asset(s) it determined were securities nor why, simply stating that Poloniex facilitated trading of “digital assets that were investment contracts and therefore securities.”

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Poloniex agreed to the entry of the order and a payment of $10,388,309 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty.
Continue Reading SEC Enforcement Action Against Poloniex Signals Heightened Scrutiny for Crypto Exchanges

Last week, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal for lack of Article III standing a proposed class action against a health services provider that mistakenly disclosed personally identifiable information (“PII”).  In its opinion, the Second Circuit held that plaintiffs may establish Article III standing based on an increased risk of identity theft or fraud following an unauthorized disclosure of their data, but that the standard was not met based on the facts presented.  The decision, which is the first time the Second Circuit has explicitly adopted this standard, has potentially important implications going forward for data breach cases.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Articulates Injury Standard in Data Breach Suits

On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $507,375 settlement with BitPay, Inc. (BitPay), a payment processor for merchants accepting digital currency as payment for goods and services, for 2,102 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs between 2013 and 2018.[1] The settlement highlights that financial service providers facilitating digital currency transactions must not only establish sanctions compliance programs to screen their own customers but also must monitor third-party non-customer transaction information.
Continue Reading OFAC Settles with Digital Currency Payment Processor for Sanctions Violations

On March 3, 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Examinations (the “Division”)—formerly the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations—released its 2021 Examination Priorities (“2021 Priorities”).  The 2021 Priorities generally retain perennial risk areas as the Division’s core focus, but do include several new and emerging risk areas reflecting broader policy shifts under new SEC leadership.

The 2021 Priorities include:  retail investors; information security and operational resilience; financial technology (“Fintech”), including digital assets; anti-money laundering; transition from the London Inter‑Bank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”); several areas covering registered investment advisers and investment companies; market infrastructure; and oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board programs and policies.  Although not formal priorities, the Division will also focus on climate-related risks and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters in light of recent market developments and broader attention in these areas.
Continue Reading Turning the Page: Highlights of the SEC’s Division of Examination’s 2021 Priorities

On Monday, November 9, 2020, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed settlement with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (“Zoom”), a video conferencing provider, regarding allegations that Zoom misrepresented its data security practices to users and designed its product to circumvent certain embedded security features of third-party software.  The proposed settlement requires Zoom to undertake a range of specific remedial measures related to its data security practices.  It also imposes multiple layers of reporting and certification requirements.
Continue Reading FTC Announces Settlement with Zoom Regarding Data Security Practices

On August 20, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it had charged Joseph Sullivan, the former Chief Security Officer (“CSO”) of Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”), with obstruction of justice and misprision of a felony for allegedly attempting to cover up Uber’s 2016 data incident during the course of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).
Continue Reading DOJ Charges Former Uber Executive for Alleged Role in Attempted Cover-Up of 2016 Data Breach

In a landmark enforcement action related to a bank data breach, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) assessed an $80 million civil monetary penalty and entered into a cease and desist order with the bank subsidiaries of Capital One on August 6, 2020.  The actions follow a 2019 cyber-attack against Capital One.  The Federal Reserve Board also entered into a cease and desist order with the banks’ parent holding company.  The OCC actions represent the first imposition of a significant penalty against a bank in connection with a data breach or an alleged failure to comply with the OCC’s guidelines relating to information security.
Continue Reading OCC Imposes $80 Million Penalty in Connection with Bank Data Breach

On June 25, 2020, a federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia held that a bank must produce in discovery a report generated by its cybersecurity forensic investigator following a 2019 data breach involving unauthorized access to personal information of customers and individuals who had applied for accounts.[1]  Even though the report was produced at the direction of outside counsel, the court rejected arguments that the forensic report is protected from disclosure by the work product doctrine.  Instead, the court determined that the report was not produced primarily in anticipation of litigation based on several factors, including the similarity of the report to past business-related work product by the investigator and the bank’s subsequent use and dissemination of the report.  This decision raises questions about the scope of work product protection for forensic expert and other similar reports in the context of an internal investigation.
Continue Reading Federal Court Compels Production of Data Breach Forensic Investigation Report

On April 15, 2020, the U.S. Departments of State, the Treasury, and Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an advisory alert providing guidance on the North Korean cyber threat and steps to mitigate that threat (the “Alert”).[1]  The U.S. Government has repeatedly warned the private sector that North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”), routinely engages in malicious cyber activities and has specifically targeted financial institutions.

This Alert serves as a reminder, especially during this pandemic as businesses go remote and virtual to an unprecedented degree, that the cyber threat, including from the DPRK, remains a critical risk for all companies.  Financial institutions in particular, a traditional target of North Korean cyber activity, should take steps to ensure they are protecting themselves from and responding effectively to malicious cyber intrusions.
Continue Reading CISA Alert: North Korean Cyber Threat Poses Increased Risk for Financial Institutions

On March 20, 2020, news outlets reported that four U.S. Senators sold millions of dollars in stock following classified briefings to the Senate on the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak.  Three days later, the Co-Directors of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Division of Enforcement, Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, issued a statement reminding market participants of their obligations with respect to material non-public information (“MNPI”) and of the SEC’s commitment to protecting investors from fraud and ensuring market integrity.[1]
Continue Reading Insider Trading Risk During the COVID-19 Outbreak