A Linguistic Triple Double

What are the only words in the English language with three consecutive double letters?

Hint: There are two and they are related – one a noun, the other a verb!

A Cryptocurrency by Any Other Name May Still Smell Like a Security

Dror Futter, Partner, Rimon, P.C.

Although the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been studying blockchain and cryptocurrencies since 2013, until its recent pronouncement, the SEC had been silent with respect with respect to its regulatory authority with respect to Initial Coin Offerings. An Initial Coin Offering (“ICO”) is a company’s release of its own cryptocurrency in exchange for tokens of a pre-existing cryptocurrency (e.g., bitcoins and in rare instances, a fiat currency – currency backed by the issuing government such as Dollars or Euro). The ICO issuing company effectively ‘sells’ a pre-defined number of coins or crypto-tokens to purchasers.

The surge in ICO’s has been so dramatic, that in 2017 ICO’s surpassed venture capital as the primary source for funding blockchain ventures and recent news reports suggest that funds raised through an ICO were “crowding out” venture investors. Most ICO’s in the United States have been conducted without registration under U.S. securities laws. Typically, the issuer simply provides potential investors with a “White Paper” outlining how they intend to use the money raised by the ICO.  To put it charitably, the quality and detail of these White Papers varies widely.

The similarity between the term “Initial Coin Offering” and “Initial Public Offering” or IPO is more than coincidental and these similarities have now prompted the SEC to issue its first pronouncements on the subject of ICO regulation under the securities laws and on July 25, 2017, the SEC did just that and issued the following three documents:
• An SEC Report of Investigation;
• A Press Release about the report; and
Guidance to Purchasers of Digital Tokens

The issue the SEC has been grappling with is the application of the definition of a “security” to the tokens being issued in an ICO.  In a 1946 Supreme Court case Securities and Exchange Commission v. Howey Co., the U.S. Supreme Court identified four criteria (which have evolved a bit since that decision) that need to be present for an investment contract, within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, to be a security.  They are: (1) the investment of money or other consideration, (2) In a common enterprise (although there is a split over how “commonality” should defined), (3) where investors expect a profit, and (4) any returns to the investors are derived solely from efforts of the promoters (issuers) or other third parties. The Court noted that the facts and circumstances of each case will determine whether an instrument is a security, even if it does not technically fall within the narrow criteria of their specific decision.

In short, the SEC press release stated:
• Tokens offered and sold by “The DAO” (the case that had been investigated) were securities, subject to the federal securities laws;
• Issuers of blockchain technology-based securities must register offers and sales unless a valid exemption applies;
• Those participating in unregistered offerings may be liable for securities law violations; and
• Securities exchanges enabling trading in these securities must register unless an exemption applies.

The SEC’s documents are silent on so-called “utility tokens” or “service tokens” – tokens that allow the purchaser to obtain a service (e.g., data storage; online games) and it is likely we will hear more from the SEC in future, since their press release contained a clear warning the securities laws and regulations apply to ICO’s. Although not all tokens sold in an ICO will automatically be considered a security, there remains significant uncertainty and most knowledgeable attorneys in this arena have already been advising their clients to avail themselves of the exemptions to the registration requirements (e.g., Reg D, Reg A+ or Crowdfunding under the JOBS Act).

This is an extremely complex and challenging (and evolving) area of the law and regulation and you can read the entire Client Alert: Casting Light Over Recent Events Concerning the SEC’s views on ICOs, Cryptocurrencies, Tokens, Securities and their Legal Repercussions.  Of course, if you want to know even more or need guidance, you should contact Dror Futter directly and you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the attorneys at Rimon Law with whom you regularly work.

Have a Heart!

If  you are a card player, then you know the answer to our last trivia question. In a standard deck of playing cards, the king of hearts is the only one that doesn’t have a moustache.

Frank Lloyd Wright

“I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.”

Salt of the Earth

Salary comes from the Latin ‘salarium,’ which has as it’s root the word “sal,” or salt.  In the days of ancient Rome, salt was a precious, necessary and extremely expensive commodity and Roman soldiers were allotted a certain amount of money to buy salt.  Over time it began to be referred to as the regular amounts of money paid to soldiers and from there the word salary came to mean wages generally.

. . . and the rest of the day to yourself!

The correct response to the Irish greeting, “Top of the morning to you” is “and the rest of the day to yourself! ” That said,  there are many who believe that the purported phrase “top o’ the morning”  is nothing more than a myth to the Irish themselves.   Most of the Irish today may tell you they have never, heard even any one (other than the Lucky Charms commercials) use that phrase.  The greeting does appear in a World War I poem written by Henry Newbolt, which goes:  “So I laughed, and felt quite well disposed to the youngster, And shouted out “the top of the morning” to him, And wished him “Good sport!” and then I remembered, My rank, and his, and what I ought to be doing. . . “.  But Newbolt wasn’t Irish, he was British!    The greeting may have been used in Ireland during the Victorian era, since a novel written by Irish author Charles J. Kickham in 1879 contains a reference to the greeting: “And the words —”The top of the morning to you, Miss Grace,” suggested the idea that Father Hannigan affected the phraseology of the peasantry.” If anyone knows better, let me know!

Retaining Jurisdiction Requires More than Just Words

By Douglas Schneller, Partner, Rimon Law

Bankruptcy plans and contracts approved by bankruptcy courts routinely include “retention of jurisdiction” provisions, but a case decided last month, Gupta v. Quincy Med. Ctr. (“Gupta”), reminds us that the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court is not unlimited merely by reciting the words. In the Gupta decision, the First Circuit held that unless the dispute involves or affects the debtor’s estate or requires interpretation of a bankruptcy court order or bankruptcy law underlying the dispute, the appropriate venue to consider the dispute may be state court, even against the expectations or wishes of the parties.

In this case, the parties entered into an agreement for the sale of assets by the seller and in the contract, the buyer agreed to pay severance to any employees of the seller that were fired after closing. Literally the day after signing the agreement, the seller (the ‘debtor’) filed voluntary Chapter 11 petitions and a sale motion under the Bankruptcy Code seeking approval of the asset purchase agreement. The Bankruptcy Court approved the agreement and sale, which then closed. The Bankruptcy Court’s order, as well as the order confirming the proposed Chapter 11 plan of reorganization, each contained a provision that the Bankruptcy Court would retain jurisdiction over disputes.

You can guess what happened next. After the closing of the asset sale, the buyer terminated the seller’s executives, effective as of the closing date and refused to pay severance. Inevitably, the lawsuits followed. Although the Bankruptcy Court decided it had jurisdiction to hear the claims based on the ‘retention of jurisdiction’ clauses, on June 2, 2017, the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision concluded that the Bankruptcy Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit vacated the judgments against the buyer and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the claims against the buyer. In short, the court concluded that the contract language in the asset purchase agreement was not sufficient by itself for the Bankruptcy Court to retain jurisdiction to hear disputes, because a bankruptcy court cannot retain jurisdiction it never had. Indeed, the court noted that the claims could well have arisen entirely outside of bankruptcy and could be decided solely under Massachusetts contract law.

There is a lot more detail and analysis and if you want to read the entire Client Alert: First Circuit: Bankruptcy Court “Retention of Jurisdiction” Provision Requires More Than Mere Words and contact Douglas Schneller directly.

Of course, you should always feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the professionals at Rimon Law with whom you routinely work.