In a joint staff statement recently released, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a “Joint Staff Statement on Broker-Dealer Custody of Digital Asset Securities.” In this statement, the staffs of the Division of Trading and Markets and FINRA articulated various considerations relevant to many of these questions, particularly under the SEC’s Customer Protection Rule applicable to SEC-registered broker-dealers – drawing upon key principles from their historic approach to broker-dealer regulation and investor protection.
In the case of ‘Security” versus Utility, the following is noted:
In the case of a digital asset security that does not meet the definition of “security” under SIPA, and in the event of the failure of a carrying broker-dealer, SIPA protection likely would not apply and holders of those digital asset securities would have only unsecured general creditor claims against the broker-dealer’s estate. Further, uncertainty regarding when and whether a broker-dealer holds a digital asset security in its possession or control creates greater risk for customers that their securities will not be able to be returned in the event of a broker-dealer failure. The Staffs believe that such potential outcomes are likely to be inconsistent with the expectations of persons who would use a broker-dealer to custody their digital asset securities.
More rom the report:
Entities seeking to participate in the marketplace for digital asset securities must comply with the relevant securities laws. An entity that buys, sells, or otherwise transacts or is involved in effecting transactions in digital asset securities for customers or its own account is subject to the federal securities laws, and may be required to register with the Commission as a broker-dealer and become a member of and comply with the rules of a self-regulatory organization (“SRO”), which in most cases is FINRA. Importantly, if the entity is a broker-dealer, it must comply with broker-dealer financial responsibility rules, including, as applicable, custodial requirements under Rule 15c3-3 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), which is known as the Customer Protection Rule.
The Customer Protection Rule is purposed to safeguard customer securities and funds held by a broker-dealer, to prevent investor loss or harm in the event of a broker-dealer’s failure, and to enhance the Commission’s ability to monitor and prevent unsound business practices.
See report in full here.
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