Daily Management Review

Cyber Crime Risks Are Substantial, Systemic, Says SEC Chief


In order to enable mom-and-pop investors to better understand new technologies that are used to commit fraud and the potential risks posed by cyber crime, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton on Tuesday said that regulators must do more so that they can be helped.
During his tenure at the head of Wall Street’s main regulator, cyber security would be one of the top enforcement issues, Clayton, who was appointed to the commission earlier this year, said.
“I am not comfortable that the American investing public understands the substantial risks that we face systemically from cyber issues,” he said during a panel discussion at New York University. “I’d like to see better disclosure around that.”
Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, who joined Clayton on the panel along with co-Director Steven Peikin said that one concern for the SEC relates to a rise in cases of information being stolen by hackers to gain some sort of market advantage.
Avakiann said that the growing prevalence of “initial coin offerings (ICOs),” cyber-related disclosure failures and ensuring financial firms take the appropriate steps to safeguard sensitive information would be part of the agenda in other areas of focus. 
The process of public selling of a digital currency based on blockchain technology is defined as an ICO. This currency is often traded on secondary exchanges.
Unless a “valid exemption” applies, laws that require disclosures and are subject to regulatory scrutiny to protect investors would govern the tokens issued through ICOs, which have allowed startups to raise $1 billion so far this year and thus can be considered as securities, the SEC said in July.
Peikin said that a number of companies that have claimed to be in the blockchain and digital currency space but which are really just trying to steal people’s money are being investigated into actively by the SEC.
“As with any kind of newsworthy event, roaches kind of crawl out of the woodwork and try to scam money off of investors,” he said of the rapidly growingly popularity of ICOs.
Peikin said that in order to help keep abreast of emerging developments and technologies, the SEC has a distributed ledger technology working group made up of about 90 people across the commission.
The protection of retail investors from harm would be remain the top goal for the SEC and there not be any sort of dramatic shift in priorities at the SEC from an enforcement perspective, Clayton said.

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