More than ever before, financial services regulators must increasingly adapt to technological advances. Perhaps no other technological advancement is more important right now than crypto currency. Crypto currency is defined as digital assets issued or transferred using blockchain technology. Earlier this month, the SEC, despite SEC chairman Gary Gensler’s well-known skepticism of crypto, granted Bitcoin, the world’s largest crypto currency, approval to be the first crypto asset listed as an exchange traded fund (ETF). This defining moment for crypto currency further cements the relatively new technology into the financial services and securities landscape.
Anticipating the changing tides, FINRA recently declared in its 2024 Annual Regulatory Oversight Report that it would add a brand-new Crypto Asset Development section – dedicated to providing guidance for member firms engaging in (or expecting to engage in) the crypto economy. This new section includes reports from FINRA’s November 2022 targeted exam reviewing the practices of certain member firms that communicate with retail customers concerning crypto assets and crypto asset-related services. The relevant time period of the exam was from July 1 through September 30, 2022. On January 24, 2024, FINRA published an update to the targeted exam, claiming that approximately 70 percent of the more than 500 retail customer communications it reviewed contained potential FINRA Rule 2210 violations (communication with the public), including the following: