Investor Alert: First Look – Regulators are Taking a Look at Cryptocurrency

By Eric Peters, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

SEC and CFTC Chairmen Jay Clayton and J. Christopher Giancarlo, respectively, published a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on January 25, 2018 providing an overview of the approach regulators are taking to address concerns in the newly-emerging cryptocurrency markets. Many internet-based cryptocurrency trading platforms are not subject to direct oversight by the SEC or the CFTC, as they have been registered as payment services, an area primarily regulated at the state level. Given the increasing number of market participants engaging this newly-emerging market, including both retail and institutional investors, the SEC is taking a look at creating and enforcing new rules and regulations that foster innovation while promoting market integrity and confidence. This effort to investigate and regulate cryptocurrencies is warranted and needed, especially considering the great risk and reward inherent in these types of investments.  Continue reading

What to Be Aware Of When the Social Security Administration Awards Your Client Back Pay

Scott Robertson photo

By: Scott Robertson, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Student Intern

Social Security disability claims can take a long time to process.  Thus, in a lot of cases where a client is awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits based upon disability, the Administrative Law Judge will award past due disability benefits back to the date when the initial application was filed.  Unfortunately for the client, back payment funds may only be used for certain expenses and the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that a benefits payee substantiate each purchase made with the funds.  This restrictive policy, along with other quirks in the process of obtaining and using the back pay can be frustrating, confusing, and generally troublesome for clients. Continue reading

Wednesday’s Word: Securitization

By Eric Peters, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

Securitization is a process that has been developed, essentially, to take various types of debt instruments that were rarely traded and turn them into tradable securities, resulting in greater liquidity.  As such, the goal of the securitization is threefold: 1.) increase the liquidity of debt instruments, 2.) lower the cost of capital to borrowers, and 3.) increase the efficiency of financial markets. Continue reading

Lawyers as “Connectors”

Sutton Freedman photoLawyers as “Connectors”

By: Sutton Freedman, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Student Intern

Working in the HeLP clinic, even for just a few weeks that I have, has given me a new perspective on what lawyering can mean. My partners and I have been working on preparing an appeal for Social Security disability benefits—something I knew nothing about before beginning my work in the clinic—for a child that suffers from several health problems. Despite the seriousness of the child’s conditions, the Social Security Administration denied the family’s initial application as well as their second bite at the apple, the ‘request for reconsideration.’ The next phase of appeal involves requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge, a process that requires us to gather evidence from a variety of sources. This includes both general and special education records from the child’s school, as well as medical records from the child’s doctors, counselors, and specialists over the last several years. In order to prove that the child is entitled to disability benefits, we need all of those records, as well as all of the documentation from the client’s local Social Security office.

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ABLE Accounts

By Alisa Radut, IAC Student Intern Spring 2018

In thinking about investing for future retirement, you may need to consider savings to provide for disability-related expenses.  One type of account serves exactly this purpose: the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account.  An account can be created for a beneficiary, including by a parent, guardian, or holder of a power of attorney.  Accounts are available to beneficiaries who incurred a qualifying disability before the age of 26.  The amount you can contribute to this account is currently limited to $15,000 per year and is subject to an aggregate limit. Continue reading

SEC Obtains Court Order Halting Cryptocurrency Bank

By Ben Dell’Orto, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

Whether you’re slightly confused as to what Bitcoin is, or are kicking yourself for forgetting the password to your “Bitcoin Wallet,” cryptocurrencies are a popular subject lately. Two alleged fraudsters in Dallas, Texas thought they could capitalize on this popularity—and people’s lack of expertise on the subject—in creating an alleged scam Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

According to the SEC, Jared Rice Sr. and Stanley Ford founded AriseBank, which they claimed was a new type of “decentralized” bank, which offered investors “banking products and services using more than 700 virtual currencies” such as Bitcoin, Bitshares and Dogecoin. The pair allegedly claimed that the funds were raised through an algorithm that automatically traded in the cryptocurrencies. AriseBank also allegedly told customers that it had bought an FDIC-Insured bank which allowed it to provide “customers the ability to obtain an AriseBank-branded VISA card to spend any of the 700-plus cryptocurrencies.” Continue reading

Helping Small Firms is No Small Idea for FINRA

By Dowdy White, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

One of my favorite cartoon shows during my childhood was about a big cat that always chased after a tiny mouse in order to eat him. Each time the big cat gave chase to the small mouse, he found himself on the losing end of a violent trap or a forceful explosion. No matter what happened, the big cat always lost. As a result, the mouse was always safe. The elementary plot of the show continuously demonstrated that though one may be small, he would not always find himself on the losing end of a battle.

In the world of investing, small firms often find themselves in need of assistance when it comes to navigating FINRA’s legal policies, rules, and procedures. These firms, which contain less than 150 brokers apiece, have recently become a target area for FINRA’s new “FINRA360” initiative. According to FINRA CEO Robert Cook, this initiative was put in place in order to “ensure that FINRA is operating as the most effective self-regulatory organization (SRO) it can be, working to protect investors and promote market integrity in a manner that supports strong and vibrant capital markets.” Continue reading