By Michael W. Zarlenga, Esq.*
On February 15th, I flew into Dallas Fort Worth Airport to attend the Bitcoin, Ethereum & Blockchain Superconference at the DFW Marriott. Over two days, there were a series of speakers and break out discussions on everything from investing in cryptocurrencies to the current state of regulation.
The conference opened with remarks from Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and visionary whose VC funds have invested in start-ups like Skype, Hotmail, Tesla, Baidu, Theranos, Athenahealth, Solar City, Box, TwitchTV, SpaceX, Cruise Automation and Parametric Technology. He is credited with coining the phrase "viral marketing". Earlier in my career, I was responsible for doing much of the fund formation work for VC fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson and some of its affiliate funds, such as Draper Atlantic, so I am very attune to the insights of Tim Draper. One comment, or rather prediction, caught my interest, and summed up why many of the people attended the conference. The morning of Friday, February 16, 2018, Tim predicted that if you walk into a Starbucks Coffee five years from now and tried to pay with cash, the Barista will laugh at you.
As an attorney, I also had an interest in learning the latest thoughts of others in my profession and the executives of the major players in the industry. I was especially interested in coin and token offerings. As I have been espousing for months, the industry finally seems to be coming to grips with the fact that most coin and token offerings in the United States or to a U.S. citizen are going to be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission as an offering of a security. The path for a purely utility token has become extremely narrow.
On the cryptocurrency front, the speakers tended to stress that the Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer (AML-KYC) rules are often being overlooked. Additionally, rules regulating money or currency exchanges and money transfer businesses are also taking a back seat. Yet, on an individual basis, these rules are the traps for the unwary.
After talking with many of attendees, my biggest takeaway was that the blockchain and cryptocurrency space has reached the point at which regulators are no longer willing to overlook bad actors. Regulators are expecting people to comply with the law and are no longer going to just give out slaps on the wrist. Having quality legal counsel familiar with the issues will be key moving forward. Bergstrom Attorneys continues to monitor developments and advise clients in the cryptocurrency, coin and token offering, and distributed ledger network arena. Contact us to discuss how we can help achieve your goals.
* Michael W. Zarlenga is Of Counsel to Bergstrom Attorneys, PLLC. Mr. Zarlenga has extensive securities law experience, including both public and private placements of securities totaling in excess of $2 billion. In addition, Mr. Zarlenga has advised clients ranging in size from start-up companies to Fortune 500 in such diversely regulated fields as biotech, hi-tech, financial services, and insurance.