Last month, Representative Jim Himes (D-Conn) and his co-sponsors, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Denny Heck (D-WA), introduced H.R. 2534:  The Insider Trading Prohibition Act.  Unlike its substantially similar predecessor, H.R. 1625, which was introduced by Representative Himes on March 25, 2015, H.R. 2534 has gained some momentum in the U.S. House of Representatives, having been unanimously approved by the Financial Services Committee in May 2019.  Although the bill is only at the preliminary stage, if the proposal eventually proceeds further in the process of becoming law, it will represent a potentially significant shift in and clarification of U.S. insider trading laws.
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In the past year, members of the U.S. Congress and Senate on both sides of the aisle have proposed data privacy bills that would impose nationwide standards on companies who collect and/or share consumers’ personal information. Currently, all 50 states have separate, but often overlapping, data privacy regimes—each subjecting companies to various combinations of recordkeeping standards, data sharing restrictions, and data breach reporting requirements—creating a patchwork of state laws that can generate substantial uncertainty for corporations.
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On April 16, 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) issued a Risk Alert addressing all registered broker-dealers and investment advisers’ (together, “Firms”)[1] privacy-related obligations under Regulation S-P (“Reg S-P”).  The Risk Alert set out the most frequent Reg S-P deficiencies OCIE identified during examinations over the past two years, and encouraged registrants to review their written privacy policies and procedures as well as the consistency with which these policies and procedures have been implemented.  The Alert is the latest in a series of recent privacy and cybersecurity guidance documents issued by the SEC, including the February 2018 Commission Statement and Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures and October 2018 Report of Investigation on cyber-related frauds and public company accounting controls.

This Risk Alert is consistent with the SEC’s approach of seeking to influence the conduct of registrants by providing guidance on specific compliance issues, followed by Risk Alerts noting common exam deficiencies, prior to pursuing enforcement actions.  Investment advisers and broker-dealers should  take this as a prompt to review their relevant policies and procedures to ensure they are appropriate and being followed in practice.
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On April 3, 2019, staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission released (1) a framework providing principles for analyzing whether a digital asset constitutes an investment contract, and thus a security, as defined in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. and (2) a no-action letter permitting TurnKey Jet, Inc., without satisfying registration requirements under the Securities

On 12 February 2019, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”)[1] adopted its first opinion on an “administrative arrangement,” which provides a new mechanism for the transfer of personal data between European Union (“EU”) financial supervisory authorities and securities agencies and their non-EU counterparts.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (“GDPR”), personal data cannot be transferred from the European Economic Area (“EEA”) to a third country unless the European Commission has decided that such third country is “adequate” from a data protection laws perspective, or “appropriate safeguards” are in place to ensure that the treatment of personal data in the hands of the recipient reflects the GDPR’s high standards. Article 46 of the GDPR provides for various safeguarding options, including the possibility of “provisions to be inserted into administrative arrangements between public authorities or bodies which include enforceable and effective data subject rights.[2] No such “administrative arrangements” have been approved by the EDPB until now.
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On January 10, 2019, a Magistrate Judge in the Northern District of California issued an order denying an application for a search warrant that would have compelled any individual present at the premises to be searched to unlock their digital devices using biometric features, such as thumb prints and facial scans.  The order is notable in that the search warrant was not rejected on Fourth Amendment grounds, but rather on the grounds that requiring a person to unlock his or her digital device ran afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination.[1]  Providing a thumb or facial scan, the court reasoned, constituted testimony protected by the Fifth Amendment, analogizing biometrics to passwords that similarly protect information stored on devices.  This decision highlights the current tension in the courts on the accessibility of information stored on digital devices, and the courts’ continuing efforts to develop rules governing this rapidly-evolving area of law.
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Nearly a decade ago, WikiLeaks ushered in the age of mass leaks.  Since then, corporations, governments, public figures and private entities have increasingly had to reckon with a new reality: that vigilantes, activists, extortionists and even state actors can silently steal and rapidly disseminate proprietary information, including customer data and other sensitive information.  Last month, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) indicted four individuals based on information first revealed in the “Panama Papers” leak.  This marks a significant milestone in law enforcement’s reliance on evidence based on an unauthorized mass leak of information.  While leaks and hacks are not a novel phenomenon—in 1971, the New York Times published top secret documents on the Vietnam War and, in 1994, a paralegal leaked tobacco industry documents that ultimately cost the industry billions of dollars in litigation and settlement costs—the frequency, scale and ease of dissemination of leaked information today presents a difference not only of degree, but of kind.  The new Panama Papers-based criminal case will likely raise a host of novel legal issues based on legal challenges to the DOJ’s reliance on information illegally obtained by a third party, as well as information that would ordinarily be protected by the attorney-client privilege.  In this memorandum, we discuss the potential issues raised by the prosecution and their implications.
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On December 20, 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) released a Report on Selected Cybersecurity Practices for broker-dealer firms.  This report reflects FINRA’s current perspective on the cybersecurity threat landscape based on observations from its examinations of securities firms.  Below we discuss the report’s key observations and contextualize these insights for members of the financial industry.
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On December 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released its 2019 Examination Priorities.  The six themes for this year’s priorities are:  retail investors (including seniors and those saving for retirement), compliance and risk in registrants responsible for critical market infrastructure (clearing agencies, transfer agents, national securities exchanges and Regulation SCI entities), oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, digital assets, cybersecurity and anti-money laundering.  The only new theme for 2019 compared to 2018 is digital assets, which we take to imply a plan to more closely—and substantively—regulate investment advisers and broker-dealers involved with this asset class.  The 2019 priorities also more explicitly than the 2018 priorities describe specific practices that OCIE found concerning in examinations of those entities, many of which involved failure to adequately safeguard client assets and the adequacy of disclosures of conflicts of interest.  We expect to see a corresponding focus in Enforcement Division investigations and cases on these issues as a result.
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Continuing its efforts to engage with FinTech innovators and market participants in the adoption of new technologies, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and its LabCFTC[1] released a Primer on Smart Contracts (the “Primer”) on November 27. The Commission focused its Primer on (1) detailing the technical aspects of smart contract technology; (2) examining potential benefits and risks connected to their widespread adoption; and (3) the CFTC’s role in regulating the adoption of the technology within those markets under its jurisdiction.

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