Tulips, Oranges, Worms, and Coins – Virtual, Digital, or Crypto Currency and the Securities Laws

This Article examines the applicability of the federal securities laws to digital currencies. Although some enforcement actions have been brought by the SEC, digital currency transactions remain largely unregulated. The securities laws contain a broad definition of what constitutes a security. Finding a security to exist triggers many regulatory provisions of the securities laws. There is considerable case law interpreting the now well-developed test for what constitutes an “investment contract” leading to the finding that a security exists. However, to date, there is sparse authority applying the securities laws to virtual, digital, or crypto currencies. This article examines the investment contract analysis and concludes that initial coin offerings and many, if not most, digital currency transactions involve securities and therefore are subject to SEC jurisdiction and to the jurisdiction of state securities administrators. The article then outlines the regulatory consequences of applying the securities laws to digital currency transactions.

  • Author: Thomas Lee Hazen
  • Cite: Thomas Lee Hazen, Tulips, Oranges, Worms, and Coins – Virtual, Digital, or Crypto Currency and the Securities Laws, 20 N.C. J.L. & Tech. 493 (2019), http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Hazen_Final.pdf.
  • PDF: http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Hazen_Final.pdf
  • Volume: Volume 20, Issue 4

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