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OSC Issues Warning Against Five Digital Currency Firms

On May 18, 2018 the Ontario Securities Commission (the “OSC”) released an Investor Alert warning investors of five digital currency firms (the “Firms”) that have been identified as targeting Ontario investors and encouraging trades and investments in cryptocurrency. This announcement follows the OSC’s participation in an international initiative called “Operation Cryptosweep” to raise public awareness about ICOs and cryptocurrency-related investment products, including such unregistered and fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes.

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Major Technology Companies Restrict Cryptocurrency Advertisements for Consumer Protection

UPDATE: On March 26, 2018, Twitter confirmed the report referenced below and announced that cryptocurrency advertisements would be banned from its website as of March 27, 2018. Further, all ads relating to digital currency, other than public companies listed on major stock exchanges, will be removed from its website.

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Japan Sets its Sights on a Self-Regulating Cryptocurrency Group

United by the goal of providing better safeguards to cryptocurrency investors, sixteen Japanese cryptocurrency exchanges are reportedly joining forces to create a self-regulating cryptocurrency body in Japan.

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SEC to Target Lawyers Assisting with ICOs

On January 22, 2018, Jay Clayton, Chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), issued a warning statement to lawyers assisting clients with ICOs and to companies who have, or are looking to, shift their focus to distributed ledger or blockchain technologies in his opening remarks at the Securities Regulation Institute. The SEC has the power to impose liability and penalties on lawyers who fail to satisfy their responsibility as gatekeepers to the capital markets. These remarks signal that lawyers may be a focus of the SEC as it seeks to regulate the world of ICOs.

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FINRA to Emphasize ICO Monitoring in 2018

On January 8, 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA” or the “organization”) released its 2018 Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter addressing the areas of focus for the organization for 2018. Of note, FINRA emphasized the need to “deepen [its] understanding” of initial coin offerings ("ICOs"), as the financing mechanism has dramatically increased in popularity over the course of 2017.

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U.S. Court Orders Certain Identifying Information to be Provided to the IRS

On November 29, 2017 a US federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Coinbase, Inc. (“Coinbase”) a popular online cryptocurrency exchange, must supply the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) with identifying information on users who had more than US$20,000 in annual transactions on the Coinbase platform between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015.

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SEC Issues Guidance on Celebrity Endorsements

On November 1, 2017, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) released a statement addressing the recent influx of celebrities that are endorsing and promoting investments in stocks and other investments, particularly Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”).

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OSC Gives Relief to First Initial Token Offering

On October 17, 2017, the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”) granted relief to an initial token offering (“ITO”), its first decision of this kind.  The OSC granted exemptive relief to Token Funder (“Funder”) in connection with its ITO of FNDR tokens (as defined below) through a private placement offering (the “Offering”). The exemptive relief was sought through the Canadian Securities Administrators’ regulatory sandbox (the “CSA Sandbox”), which is an initiative of the CSA to support fintech businesses seeking to provide innovative products, services and applications by offering a faster and more flexible process to register and/or obtain exemptive relief from securities laws requirements.

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