On Thursday, Grayscale Investments, LLC (Grayscale) filed suit against the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in the D.C. Circuit asking the court to reconsider the agency’s rejection of listing a spot Bitcoin ETP on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In its appeal, Grayscale argued that the SEC’s ruling regarding its spot Bitcoin ETP was “arbitrary and capricious,” because it disregarded facts about the ETP and erroneously determined that listing the ETP would be in contravention of NYSE’s duties under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.Read More
On 2 June 2022, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a complaint against crypto exchange Gemini Trust Company, LLC (Gemini) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for allegedly making false or misleading statements of material facts to the CFTC related to the bitcoin futures contract that Gemini launched on its exchange in 2017. If successful in this litigation, the CFTC would impose a derivatives trading and registration ban on Gemini and its employees, in addition to civil monetary penalties and profit disgorgement.
According to the CFTC’s complaint, Gemini intended to self-certify its bitcoin futures contract, and it engaged with CFTC staff between July and December 2017 in connection with the self-certification. The bitcoin futures contract was to be cash-settled by reference to the underlying bitcoin price, determined by the daily bitcoin auction that took place on the Gemini Exchange. In its complaint, the CFTC alleges that the Gemini bitcoin futures contract and related spot auction were readily susceptible to manipulation.
Specifically, the CFTC alleges that:
- Gemini represented to the CFTC that Gemini required all transactions to be fully “prefunded”, despite the fact that Gemini was lending digital assets to traders on an unsecured basis at low rates;
- Gemini made false or misleading statements relating to self-trading and did not effectively prohibit self-trading from occurring in the Gemini bitcoin auctions (with about 70% of the total auction trading volume resulted from one market participant trading with itself in December 2016);
- Gemini entered into bespoke fee arrangements with certain market makers that were not available to all Gemini market participants and were not disclosed to the public; and
- Gemini provided false or misleading statements to the CFTC regarding trading volume and liquidity on the Gemini Exchange.
The CFTC emphasized in its complaint that the bitcoin futures contract was particularly significant because it was to be among the first digital asset futures contracts listed on a U.S. derivatives exchange. This action makes clear regulators’ intense focus of crypto assets, and the stakes are high: If the CFTC is successful, Gemini and its employees and agents would effectively be banned from U.S. derivatives markets, in addition to being subject to civil monetary penalties and profit disgorgement. CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam has previously warned that the agency’s recent crypto-related enforcement actions were just the “tip of the iceberg,” and the Gemini lawsuit is evidence that there are more enforcement actions to come.
On 25 May 2022, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) block trade no-action relief, provided in CFTC No-Action Letter (NAL) 20-35, expired. As of that day, all swap execution facilities (SEFs) are required to comply with the amended definition of “block trade” provided under CFTC Regulation 43.2.
“Block trades” are large, privately negotiated (either directly or through a broker) swap transactions that meet certain quantity thresholds. Block trades must qualify for execution apart from the SEF’s order book or trading platform in accordance with the relevant SEF’s rules, pursuant to CFTC Regulations.Read More
By: Clair Pagnano
In a significant departure from the SEC’s long-standing position on the use of fund names, the SEC is proposing amendments to Rule 35d-1 that would expand the Names Rule to include terms denoting strategies, thereby subjecting funds that use the terms “Growth,” “Value,” and funds that use ESG-related terms in the fund’s name to the rule. It would also prohibit funds from using ESG-related terms in their names if ESG factors are considered to the same extent as other screening factors in the management of the fund (so-called “integration” funds). These and other key aspects of the proposed rule include:Read More
By: Keri E. Riemer
The SEC’s Division of Examinations recently released a risk alert describing a pattern of deficiencies relating to investment advisers’ use of material non-public information (MNPI). The Staff highlighted the following as areas of concern:
- Alternative Data. Advisers that used data from non-traditional sources beyond company financial statements, filings, and press releases appeared to not have adopted or implemented written policies and procedures reasonably designed to address the potential risk of receiving and using MNPI through such sources.
- “Value-Add Investors”. Advisers did not have—or did not appear to implement—adequate policies and procedures related to investors who are more likely to possess MNPI (e.g., officers or directors of a public company, asset management firm principals or portfolio managers, and investment bankers).
- Expert Networks. Advisers did not appear to adequately track calls with expert network consultants, retain detailed notes from the calls, and monitor trading activity related to companies in industries similar to those discussed during the calls.
- Deficiencies related to Access Persons. The Staff identified advisers who failed to correctly identify “access persons” (as defined in Rule 204A-1(c) under the Investment Advisers Act), ensure that those access persons obtain pre-approval for investments in IPOs and other similar offerings, and maintain adequate records of the holding and transactions of access persons.
The Staff also encouraged industry participants to review their practices, policies, and procedures regarding the topics addressed above. We recently issued a client alert which describes the risk alert in greater detail and provides takeaways for industry participants.
Fund managers can expect changes to custodian and other fund service provider practices in response to regulator challenge, and should review their due diligence of service providers.
In a letter on 23 March 2022, the FCA instructed the Chief Executive and Boards of third-party custodians, depositories for authorised and non-authorised funds, and third-party administrators to review key risks identified by the FCA, including the following:Read More
By: Rob Weiss
Fund sponsors continue to search for ways to get their investors exposure to cryptocurrencies.
For sponsors able to offer registered fund products, exchange-traded products (ETPs) are attractive: available to retail investors, highly liquid, and without a fixed term, ETPs check several boxes for sponsors and investors alike. However, while the SEC has authorized listing of ETPs that trade in bitcoin futures regulated by the CFTC, the SEC has not authorized listing of ETPs that trade directly in spot cryptocurrency. We recently wrote an article on this point, which can be accessed here.Read More
By: C. Todd Gibson
Last year, a number of lawsuits were filed against SPACs and their sponsors challenging (in part) their status under the U.S. Investment Company Act of 1940 (“1940 Act”) arguing that SPACs are essentially unregistered investment companies. A brief filed by two professors supported this notion on the basis that SPACs typically hold government securities until a target company is acquired (and thus, such SPACs are investment companies required to be registered). In an unusual move to provide SPAC market participants with some comfort on this issue, a number of law firms joined together refuting this position in a joint public statement outlining legal practioners’ historic view that SPACs are not investment companies.Read More
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, global economic sanctions have evolved into a complex web of restrictions and prohibitions with limited exceptions. As a result, asset managers have more layers of regulation to navigate in relation to current holdings and future investments in virtually all markets directly or indirectly connected to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (Region).Read More
By: Andrew Massey
On 25 March 2022, the FCA confirmed new requirements for the key information document (KID) required for package retail and insurance-based investment products (PRIIPs) in the UK: policy statement 22/2. Investment funds are generally categorised as PRIIPs, although UK UCITS and UK non-UCITS retail schemes are exempted from the PRIIPs KID requirement until 31 December 2026.Read More