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In other ways, the story is new and confusing. What are Bitcoin, Ethereum, ZCash, Ripple and other forms of cryptocurrency? Are they money? Are they like securities, debt instruments, game tokens or memberships? What law governs them? The courts are still sorting through these important questions. One thing is clear. There will be more lawsuits.

In U.S. v. Zaslavskiy , defendant Maksim Zaslavskiy founded two companies called REcoin Group Foundation, LLC (REcoin) and DRC World, Inc. (Diamond). From January 2017 to October 2017, REcoin and Diamond engaged in initial coin offerings (ICOs) through which investors purchased cryptocurrency tokens issued by the companies.

In its criminal indictment, the government alleged that, contrary to Zaslavskiy’s representations, the ICOs were not backed by real estate investments and diamonds. As a result, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York brought criminal charges against Zaslavskiy for securities fraud in connection with the ICOs.

As of this writing, the lawsuit has survived a motion to dismiss. The court has refused to rule, except perhaps by implication, that the tokens at issue qualify as securities, rather than, as claimed by the defendant, mere evidence of “membership” in an investment scheme. A definitive ruling on the all-important securities law question will happen at a later date.

The investors allege that Longfin misrepresented the location of its primary offices and the identity of key employees in its public statements; had numerous material weaknesses in its operations and internal financial reporting controls; and was ineligible for inclusion in certain stock indices. The investors claim that when this information was made public, Longfin’s stock value declined more than 86 percent in two weeks. The investors are attempting to recover damages associated with the decline in stock value.

In Brola v. Nano , investors filed a class action lawsuit against a block chain developer and cryptocurrency issuer, alleging that it engaged in an unregistered offering and sale of securities by issuing cryptocurrencies on BitGrail, an Italian cryptocurrency exchange, in violation of Sections 12(a) and 15(a) of the Securities Act. The complaint also alleges that Nano wrongly encouraged investors to invest assets with BitGrail, which lost $170 million worth of the cryptocurrency “XRB” due to a hack on the exchange platform. The investors ask for, among other things, rescission of their investments.

In Paige v. Bitconnect , the plaintiff, Brian Paige, alleges that the UK-based company performed no real business activity, but merely “relied on new money from new users, who were in turn expected to get more new users to produce more new money.” It was a Ponzi scheme in violation of Kentucky and federal securities laws, as well as state consumer protection laws.

That is the big question. The law usually plays catch-up to new technologies and the Bitconnect lawsuit is a good example. None of the existing laws quite fit the newest forms of cryptocurrency financial fraud. Until legislatures enact laws specific to cryptocurrencies, savvy lawyers will look for every option under common law, as well as existing state and federal consumer and securities statutes. Cryptocurrency Financial Fraud Legal Help