The SEC Expands Its Enforcement Efforts to Include Cryptocurrency Exchanges

By: Sedgwick Jeanite and Neil Thomson

In an enforcement action filed on November 8, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered that 31-year-old Zachary Coburn, founder of the EtherDelta cryptocurrency exchange, cease and desist from operating the trading platform. The SEC’s enforcement action is significant because it marks the first time the U.S. securities regulator pursued an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange, and is indicative of a growing trend of enforcement against a booming – but previously little-regulated – industry. In this case, Coburn had failed to register EtherDelta as an exchange as required by Section 6 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the Exchange Act), and was therefore found to be in violation of Section 5 of the Exchange Act.