May 26, 2020
by Daniel M. Payne

Continuing our series examining analytics from Murphy & McGonigle’s Blockchain Litigation Database, we turn today to look at the trend in federal regulator enforcement actions filed in the blockchain space.  Pictured above are two graphs showing the number of cases filed by federal regulators in 2018 and 2019.  Overall, the number of federal enforcement actions declined slightly from 2018 to 2019: 27 to 25.  That decrease may be a bit misleading, though.  Although the CFTC, FTC, and FINRA filed fewer cases in 2019, they were not particularly active in 2018 to begin with.  They have not had enough activity to discern any patterns or trends in their behavior. 

On the other hand, the SEC continues to file many enforcement actions and, in contrast to the other federal regulators, filed more actions in 2019 than 2018.   The SEC’s actions continue to focus on unregistered token offerings.  The SEC’s earlier enforcement activity from 2017 and 2018 targeted unregistered token offerings that included allegations of fraud, but the SEC is 2019 turned its focus to more legitimate offerings that are unregistered (but with no allegation of fraud).  And the SEC’s enforcement push in 2019 paired with other guidance, including the TurnKey Jet No-Action Letter and the SEC's Framework for Digital Assets (both released in April 2019).

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Blockchain technology utilizes a distributed digital ledger to record and track information, and can be leveraged to gain transparency and certainty in transactions ranging from cryptocurrency to supply chain tracking.  This blog provides information on the legal developments surrounding implementation of blockchain technology, with an initial focus on the financial services sector.