February 19, 2020

It began as an obscure experiment in unregulated virtual currency. Initially undistinguished from Bitcoin, blockchain evolved to become one of the pillars of web 3.0, enabling new means of trust, transparency, security and tokenization. Since its introduction more than a decade ago, Blockchain has shown promise across industries. Cryptocurrency is now but one of blockchain’s many applications, albeit, the application that still draws the most attention. 2017 was a breakout year. Bitcoin soared to a record high of $20k USD and total investment in blockchain ballooned. 2018 ushered in a bear market and brief period of “crypto-winter”: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies tumbled in value and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) dipped. Yet, 2018 exceeded 2017 in total blockchain investment and saw more than one ICO break past the billion dollar mark. Amidst the uncertainty of many altcoins and ICOs, 2019 saw a decline in blockchain investment but roughly the same number of enforcement actions as the prior year. With Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the rise, 2020 may see bullish investment in blockchain again (particularly with the third Bitcoin “halving” slated for Q2), but along with it, increased scrutiny by regulators.

As we saw in first part of this piece, Federal District Courts were asked in 2019 to decide novel issues of law as the number and nature of blockchain disputes increased. In part two we look at the lessons learned from 2019 administrative actions by the Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC), orders by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), revenue rulings by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and advisory opinions by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to glean what may be ahead for 2020.