Regulatory Enforcement + Compliance

In the ever-evolving world of digital assets and law, Grayscale Investments, LLC (Grayscale) found itself at the pinnacle of a major decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. On August 29, the court deemed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) denial of Grayscale’s October 19, 2021, spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF) application “arbitrary and capricious” and vacated the agency’s decision. At the heart of the court of appeal’s ruling lies the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the complex interplay between spot asset pricing and futures asset pricing, and the SEC’s current sentiment towards digital asset-based financial products.

On August 18, the American Financial Services Association, Consumer Bankers Association, CRE Finance Council, Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, Truck Renting and Leasing Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (collectively “the Trades”) sent a joint letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) urging it to stay enforcement and implementation of the small business data collection and reporting final rule under § 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Final Rule) for all covered financial institutions to correct the current disparity between those institutions covered by the Texas Bankers Association et al v. CFPB injunction and those that are not covered.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Financial Regulation and Innovation (CA DFPI) announced a new rule expanding the definition of unfair, deceptive and abusive acts and practices (UDAAP) to commercial financing. Specifically, the rule makes it unlawful “for a covered provider to engage or have engaged in any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice in connection with the offering or provision of commercial financing or another financial product or service to a covered entity.” The new rule also includes annual reporting requirements (described below) for any covered provider who makes more than one commercial financing transaction to covered entities in a 12-month period or who makes five or more commercial financing transactions to covered entities in a 12-month period that are “incidental” to the business of the covered provider. Importantly, this rule does not apply to banks, credit unions, federal savings and loan associations, current licensees of the CA DFPI or licensees of other California agencies “to the extent that licensee or employee is acting under the authority of” the license.

On August 18, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law A4284, which prohibits sellers from imposing certain surcharges for credit card transactions. Specifically, the law prohibits sellers from charging more than what they pay to process credit card transactions. The law also requires sellers to disclose and post notices of the surcharge prior to the consumer incurring the charge.

On August 11, in the case of Yuille v. Uphold HQ Inc., the Southern District of New York was tasked with determining whether the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) applies to digital asset-based accounts. The court concluded there was no “account” as defined by EFTA because the digital asset account at issue was not established primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.

On August 16, a coalition of seven state attorneys general (AG) announced a settlement with participants alleged to be involved in a “massive” robocall operation. The stipulated order, which names Scott Shapiro, Michael T. Smith, Jr., and Health Advisors of America (defendants), permanently bans Shapiro and Smith from initiating or facilitating robocalls; working in or with companies that make robocalls; and engaging in telemarketing. The settlement also requires the defendants to make monetary payments to the coalition, which is comprised of AGs from the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and Texas (the AGs).

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison recently announced steps the office is taking as part of its “renewed focus” on medical billing. “The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has long been concerned with medical billing and has acted for years to protect Minnesotans from abusive and deceptive practices. With recent reports in the media and from consumers that problems continue, we’re taking several steps to renew our focus on this longstanding concern.” Among these steps, is investigating the billing practices of Allina Health and its Termination of Care Policy that reportedly denied non-emergency medical care to patients who carried medical debt.

On August 1, Maryland’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) issued guidance to “provide clarity on how [the OFR] views Earned Wage Access [EWA] products and to describe the requirements entities offering these products must adhere to.” Unfortunately, the guidance largely fails to deliver the promised clarity.

On August 9, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres requesting leave to file an interlocutory appeal in SEC v. Ripple Labs, Inc. as to the two adverse liability determinations in her July 13, 2023 order. That order granted partial summary judgment in Ripple Labs’ favor regarding the sale of its XRP token. As we previously discussed here, the court held in deciding cross motions for summary judgment that defendants’ “programmatic” offers and sales to XRP buyers over crypto asset trading platforms and Ripple’s “other distributions” in exchange for labor and services did not involve the offer or sale of securities under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co.

On August 8, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) issued a press release providing additional information on its Novel Activities Supervision Program (Program) to monitor novel activities in the banks it oversees. Novel activities are defined to include: (1) technology-driven partnerships with non-banks to provide banking services to customers, and (2) activities involving crypto-assets and distributed ledger or “blockchain” technology. According to the Fed, “the Program will be risk-focused and complement existing supervisory processes, strengthening the oversight of novel activities conducted by supervised banking organizations.” The Fed will notify those banking organizations whose novel activities will be subject to examination in writing and will routinely monitor supervised banking organizations that are exploring novel activities.