July 24, 2019

Registered ICOs: SEC Clears First Reg A+ Token Offering

It looks like a token issuer finally crossed the public offering goal line – at least when it comes to clearing Corp Fin’s review process. This Morrison & Foerster memo has the details. Here’s an excerpt:

On July 10, 2019, Blockstack Token LLC (“Blockstack”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blockstack PBC, a Delaware public benefit corporation, became the first company to have an offering of digital assets qualified by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) under Regulation A.

Blockstack is a technology company that offers an open-source blockchain-enabled network for developers to build and publish their own decentralized applications. According to Blockstack’s website, over 165 applications have been built on the Blockstack platform. Purchasers of Blockstack’s tokens (“Stacks Tokens”) will be able to use the tokens on its platform.

Token offerings have been under increasing scrutiny, especially with respect to whether or not tokens are securities. In its offering circular disclosure, Blockstack acknowledges that the Stacks Tokens are characterized as investment contracts under the Howey test, while noting that the Stacks Tokens “will not have the rights traditionally associated with holders of debt instruments, nor…equity.” The disclosure, in its discussion about the nature of Blockstack’s decentralized network, also references the SEC’s recent guidance on evaluating whether digital assets constitute securities for purposes of the Securities Act of 1933.

Although there have been a boatload of Reg D token offerings, this is the first one that’s cleared SEC review. Here’s a copy of the company’s preliminary offering circular. As to how long the process took, the answer is about 3 months.

It appears that the initial Form 1-A filing was made on April 11, 2019. At least one substantive amendment to the filing was made in May, but the filing history is a little convoluted, because the deal originally involved a subsidiary entity & was converted to an offering by the parent company shortly before the SEC issued its qualification order. The subsidiary ultimately withdrew its filing, but the back & forth between two filers makes it difficult to determine how much of the time between filing and qualification was attributable to the Staff’s review process.

Registered ICOs: And Then There Were Two!

Blockstack may have been the first ICO to clear SEC review, but this Proskauer blog says that it had company just a day later:

The SEC also qualified the Regulation A offering circular of YouNow, Inc. (“YouNow”), for up to $50 million worth of Props Tokens (“Props”). Rather than solicit cash (or cryptocurrency) consideration for the sale of Props, YouNow and its affiliate, The Props Foundation Public Benefit Corporation, will use YouNow’s Regulation A program solely to distribute Props as rewards and grants to users, developers and other contributors within YouNow’s network of consumer-facing digital media applications.

Meanwhile, back in unregistered token deal land. . .

Blue Sky: New Jersey Sues Issuer of Unregistered Tokens

The SEC’s high-profile enforcement actions involving digital assets get most of the limelight, but as we’ve previously blogged, state securities regulators have been extremely active on the enforcement front when it comes to token deals. Last week, it was New Jersey’s turn to bring the hammer down. Here’s an excerpt from this “Modern Consensus” article describing the Garden State’s recent action:

New Jersey got in on the cryptocurrency offering enforcement action on July 18, suing blockchain-based online rental marketplace Pocketinns for an unregistered sale of securities last year. The state’s attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, was joined by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities today in announcing a three-count enforcement action against Princeton-based Pocketinns and its president, Sarvajnya Mada, over the January 15-31, 2018, sale of $410,000 in PINNS Tokens in an initial token offering.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has brought several similar suits, initiating a high-profile action against blockchain instant messaging service Kik in June for its $100 million ICO in 2017. The agency released a long-awaited “plain English” guide defining when an ICO is a security in April.

Aside from violating the Garden State’s Uniform Securities Law by failing to register the offering, Grewal alleged that Mada acted as an unregistered agent and Pocketinns employed an unregistered agent during the sale.

The article says that the Pocketinns deal wasn’t very successful – it raised less than 1% of the $46 million it sought. But on the other hand, the company appears to have been extremely successful in buying itself all sorts of trouble.

John Jenkins