On March 30, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Examinations (the “Division”)—formerly the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations—released its 2022 Examination Priorities (“2022 Priorities”).  The Division is undergoing extensive leadership changes, with the recent departures of several top officials.  Consistent with the aggressive agenda set by Chair Gensler for the SEC generally, the Division has returned to its pre-pandemic caseload, conducting over 3,000 exams in fiscal year 2021, issuing over 2,000 deficiency letters, and making 190 referrals to the Enforcement Division.  Despite the management changes, the 2022 Priorities generally retain perennial risk areas as the core focus, but include several new and emerging risk areas reflecting the policy goals espoused by Gensler in recent proposed rule releases and public statements.
Continue Reading SEC Division of Examinations Reinforces Gensler Initiatives in its 2022 Exam Priorities

On January 24, 2022, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler gave a speech at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Annual Securities Regulation Institute signaling the SEC’s intention to step up its cyber-related regulatory and enforcement efforts.  Gensler described the continued rise in cybersecurity incidents targeting the financial sector as a serious threat to the nation’s economy and critical infrastructure, with costs potentially in the trillions of dollars.
Continue Reading SEC Chair Previews Ramp Up in Regulation and Enforcement in the Cybersecurity Context

Cybersecurity and data privacy continue to be among the most significant legal risks that businesses face today.

Last year brought a series of high-profile cyberattacks on major companies and U.S. infrastructure targets, continuing the trend seen in recent years. Regulators also brought a number of cybersecurity enforcement actions and announced new rules, guidance, and initiatives on ransomware and other cyber-related issues. In addition, after many years of debate, Congress made some progress in crafting legislation that would require certain companies to report significant cyberattacks and ransomware payments to the U.S. federal government. Companies should expect the demands of cybersecurity risk management and oversight to intensify as we enter 2022.
Continue Reading 2021 Cybersecurity and Privacy Developments in the United States

2021 was a year of transition for white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement. As courthouses reopened and trials resumed, newly-installed heads of law enforcement authorities looked to reset priorities and ramp up enforcement in the first year of the Biden administration. 
Continue Reading Priorities, Trends and Developments in Enforcement and Compliance

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