The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) issued two regulatory notices in August 2020 with warnings of imposter websites (Regulatory Notice 20-30 and Regulatory Notice 20-27). In Regulatory Notice 20-30, FINRA warned that it has received notifications from several member firms that malicious actors are using registered representatives’ names and other information to create imposter websites that appear to be the representatives’ personal sites. FINRA also reported that the malicious actors were calling and directing potential customers to use the imposter websites and, in turn, may be responding through imposter-based email addresses that could contain malware or imbedded phishing links. Regulatory Notice 20-30, raises concerns that imposters may be using these sites to collect personal information from the potential customers to commit financial fraud.
Continue Reading FINRA Repeats Warnings of Imposter Websites

On March 9, 2020, FINRA released Regulatory Notice 20-08 (the “Regulatory Notice”) providing guidance and limited relief to its member broker-dealers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the Regulatory Notice requests that broker-dealers evaluate their compliance with FINRA Rule 4370, which requires broker-dealers to create, maintain, and update upon any material change, BCPs (Business Continuity Plans) identifying procedures relating to emergency or significant business disruption.
Continue Reading FINRA Issues Notice Regarding Business Continuity Planning During COVID-19 Outbreak

On January 27, 2020, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) released observations on cybersecurity and resiliency (the “Observations”). In them, OCIE presented several key cybersecurity issues that industry participants should seek to address such as the construction and implementation of a comprehensive cybersecurity program, the prevention of unauthorized access to systems, the theft of information, responding to cyber incidents, and vendor management. In doing so, OCIE highlighted elements of successful cybersecurity efforts.

Continue Reading OCIE Releases New Observations on Cybersecurity and Resiliency

The Wall Street Journal reported on November 21, 2019, that the Federal Reserve is considering whether to begin examining data storage technology service providers (“TSPs”) of the banks that it regulates.  While financial regulators have long scrutinized TSPs generally, this report indicates a new interest by a federal regulator in direct oversight of TSPs, particularly those that provide data storage on media such as the cloud.
Continue Reading The Federal Reserve Is Considering Oversight of Data Storage TSPs

In the first post on this topic, we provided a simple answer to a question posed by the Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management (the “Division”):

To the extent a fund plans to hold cryptocurrency directly, how would it satisfy the custody requirements of the 1940 Act and relevant rules?”

Our simple answer was to treat cryptocurrencies as “financial assets” under Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code. In the second post, we explained how this simple answer may be hard to implement when it comes to trading cryptocurrencies, because their markets require trades to settle in the next block. Thus, rather than a custodian implementing a portfolio manager’s instruction to settle a trade, a portfolio manager trading a cryptocurrency will normally need to have immediate control over the transfer of the cryptocurrency, which is inconsistent with the custody requirements of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “1940 Act”).

In this post, we consider three potential solutions to the dilemma faced by an investment company that must hold cryptocurrency in compliance with the custody requirements of the 1940 Act while allowing its adviser to trade the cryptocurrency.


Continue Reading Why Blockchain Custody Is So Difficult—Paths Forward?

In our previous post, we provided a simple answer to the following question posed by Director Dalia Blass of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management:

To the extent a fund plans to hold cryptocurrency directly, how would it satisfy the custody requirements of the 1940 Act and relevant rules?”

Our simple answer was to treat cryptocurrencies as “financial assets” under Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code. But, as Director Blass knows, this is not the end of the questions relating to custody. Her letter included additional questions, such as:

If the fund may take delivery of cryptocurrencies in settlement, what plans would it have in place to provide for the custody of the cryptocurrency?”

This question relates to a core operation of investment companies: trading.


Continue Reading Why Blockchain Custody Is So Difficult—A Hard Part

There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”—President Reagan

In a January 2018 letter to the ICI and SIFMA, Director Dalia Blass of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management posed the following question, among many others:

To the extent a fund plans to hold cryptocurrency directly, how would it satisfy the custody requirements of the 1940 Act and relevant rules?”

There is a simple answer to this: “Just like our custodian satisfies these requirements with respect to most other financial assets held in our securities account.” But structural differences between cryptocurrencies and more traditional financial assets may make this harder than it sounds.


Continue Reading Why Blockchain Custody Is So Difficult—The Simple Part

This post continues our discussion of the 2018 examination priorities and guiding principles published by the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination (“OCIE”) on February 7.
Continue Reading Ask and Ye Shall Receive: OCIE’s 2018 Examination Priorities – Part 2 of 2

Industry professionals have noted that the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination (“OCIE”) was tardy in releasing their priorities list, although recent speeches from SEC officials have provided a preview of the issues in OCIE’s crosshairs. The full priority list was released on February 7.

The SEC’s examination priorities identify practices, products and services that reflect potentially heightened risks to investors and capital markets. As in prior years, the SEC’s priorities are thematic, covering:  retail investors, including seniors and retirement savers; compliance and critical market infrastructure; FINRA and MSRB activities; cybersecurity; and anti-money laundering. The first of these priority areas is summarized below.
Continue Reading Ask and Ye Shall Receive: OCIE’s 2018 Examination Priorities – Part 1 of 2