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Government Enforcement Exposed - "The GEE"
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19 Jul 2018 Cryptocurrencies — An Overview of the Legal Landscape, The Risks of Investing, and the Future of the Markets – Part 2

In my blog post yesterday, I gave an overview of the legal landscape of cryptocurrencies. Today’s post focuses on the biggest risks for people who want to trade cryptocurrency as well as a peek into what the future of this market looks like.   Trace Schmeltz recently spoke with Business First about crypto currencies and crime, taking a look at the legal side of bitcoins and other cryptos.   What are the biggest risks for people who want to trade cryptocurrency?   The most significant risks, each of which is discussed in turn below, are price manipulation and the lack of transparent pricing, fraud scams like so-called pump and dump schemes, cybersecurity issues and other custody problems, potential counter-party concerns, and liquidity issues.   Price…

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18 Jul 2018 Cryptocurrencies — An Overview of the Legal Landscape, The Risks of Investing, and the Future of the Markets – Part 1

In this two-part blog series, I will be giving an overview of the legal landscape of cryptocurrencies, touch on the biggest risks for those who want to trade cryptocurrency, as well as a look into what the future of this market looks like.   The current legal and regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies   Much has been said about the legal uncertainty around cryptocurrency.  Really, understanding what laws apply is quite simple.  Complying with multiple states’ laws is more difficult, of course.  As set out in the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) “Backgrounder on Oversight of and Approach to Virtual Currency Futures Markets”:   US law does not provide for direct, comprehensive Federal oversight of underlying Bitcoin or virtual currency spot markets. As a result,…

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13 Jul 2018 Well, That Didn’t Take Long – and With No Fanfare, Decades of Administrative Law Are Upended

Perhaps the administration had this one in the can already. On Tuesday, less than three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Lucia, President Trump signed an executive order essentially applying the Supreme Court’s rationale in Lucia to the hiring of all administrative law judges (ALJs) in the federal government. Entitled, “Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service,” the order creates a new exception from the federal government’s typical civil service hiring process for seemingly all ALJs, or at least those that perform adjudicative functions in regulatory enforcement proceedings. And, perhaps most importantly, tucked into the very end of the order, the order seemingly applies the same exception to removal of ALJs, thus apparently eliminating the requirement that ALJs only be removed…

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09 Jul 2018 Supreme Court Decides Lucia – But the Saga Continues

After almost two years (and six blog posts), we have reached the conclusion of the SEC v. Lucia saga. Except we haven’t.  The U.S. Supreme Court decided Lucia on June 21, 2018. However, just as Marvel movies now are simply prequels to the next action movie, the fractured collection of opinions in Lucia is simply a cliffhanger that sets the stage for sequel cases in future Terms.   Justice Kagan authored the six-Justice majority opinion and was joined by the Chief, and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, concurred separately, offering their own expansive take on the Appointments Clause. Justice Breyer concurred in part and dissented in part. Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg joined in the dissenting portion of Justice…

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17 May 2018 Don’t Overthink It! Advocate for Easy to Understand Jury Instructions to Effectively Communicate Your Case

Have you ever read a full set of jury instructions for a criminal trial, let alone a civil trial? What about just one instruction for one element of a crime? Can you recall Jack McCoy ever reciting the law to the jury in a closing argument on “Law and Order?” Jury instructions are a powerful tool and can play a vital role in communicating your client’s case to the jury. The key is making the instructions simple, concise and in plain English.  Far too often lawyers miss the opportunity to advocate for their clients and communicate with the jury – through the most powerful medium, the Court – simply because they fail to advocate for simpler, easier to understand jury instructions.   The education level…

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25 Apr 2018 LUCIA ORAL ARGUMENT HIGHLIGHTS PHILOSOPHICAL TENSIONS

  The Supreme Court heard oral argument Monday in Lucia v. SEC. And while it was not the “cage match” that some hoped for, it did raise important questions. Both the parties’ arguments and the Justices’ questions indicated that the Court has several conflicting issues to resolve in deciding whether SEC ALJs are hired in violation of the Appointments Clause. One of the tensions which got the most attention seemed to be whether SEC ALJs should be “politically accountable” to the President since they are essentially part of the executive branch or whether they should maintain a greater degree of “independence” because they function as adjudicators, akin to Article III judges. The Justices also spent substantial time trying to discern how their decision in Lucia…

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06 Apr 2018 COULD THE SUPREME COURT’S LUCIA ARGUMENT BECOME A CAGE MATCH?

    On April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear what may be one of the most impactful cases for the Securities and Exchange Commission, and perhaps other federal administrative agencies, in a long time.  In Lucia v. SEC, the Supreme Court will hear arguments – including from the U.S. Solicitor General – that the way that the SEC’s administrative law judges (ALJs) are appointed violates the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments Clause.  For prior posts, see [Jan 23, 2018; Jan 16, 2018, Jan 24, 2017, Sept 2, 2016].   The briefing is essentially completed, and as the Solicitor General’s recent request for divided argument suggests, the battle-lines here are untraditional.  In fact, the divergent positions staked out by the three parties that are arguing (to…

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19 Feb 2018 Cybersecurity: CFTC Brings Enforcement Action For Faulty IT System

  This past week, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) settled an enforcement action in which it had alleged that futures commission merchant AMP Global Clearing LLC violated 17 C.F.R. 166.3 (duty of supervision) by failing to diligently supervise implementation of a critical component of its information systems security program (ISSP).  As a result, AMP suffered a cybersecurity breach that led to loss of nearly 100,000 files, including customers’ personal identifying information.  As a result of the settlement, AMP paid a $100,000 fine and, undoubtedly, faces significant other expenses in dealing with the customers for whom it lost private information.  AMP will also have to provide written verification to the CFTC of its efforts to strengthen its network security and ensure compliance with its ISSP….

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23 Jan 2018 First-Time Supreme Court Advocate Appointed to Argue the SEC’s Case in Lucia

  To follow-up on our previous post, on January 18, the Supreme Court appointed Anton Metlitsky of O’Melveny & Myers to argue on behalf of the SEC in Lucia after the Solicitor General abandoned its defense of the SEC’s position in its response to Lucia’s petition for certiorari. This will be Metlitsky’s first argument before the Supreme Court.   According to the National Law Journal, Supreme Court tradition dictates that the Circuit Justice for the circuit that decided the case – here, the D.C. Circuit – picks one of his or her former clerks in these situations. Chief Justice Roberts (Circuit Justice for the D.C. Circuit) selected Metlitsky, one of his former clerks. The article also stated that, according to tradition, the appointment goes to…

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17 Jan 2018 Trace Schmeltz – About the Author

Trace Schmeltz is the founding editor and a regular contributor to the GEE Blog.  As a trial lawyer and student of the capital markets, Trace tries complex financial and corporate cases and counsels his clients in the financial industry and elsewhere as to how to avoid legal and regulatory issues.  Trace has tried securities, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), corporate governance, and complex commercial cases, as well as white collar criminal cases. Throughout the course of his career, he has represented corporations, boards of directors, individual officers, hedge funds and hedge fund managers, investment banks, banks, futures commission merchants, broker-dealers, investment advisers, commodity trading advisors and commodity pool operators.     His practice includes representing individuals and corporations in regulatory actions and investigations under the securities…

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