Joseph Perkins

Partner

Silicon Valley Office


Read full biography at www.orrick.com

Joseph Perkins advises technology companies and venture capital investors with a focus on blockchain, cryptocurrency, Web3, and NFT companies, as well as Japanese technology clients in their growth journeys.

In the fast-paced and unprecedented blockchain and cryptocurrency markets, Joseph helps companies develop innovative and comprehensive legal strategies to achieve their goals of bringing to market disruptive and transformative technologies. From DAO and NFT creation, general corporate and fundraising strategies, to navigating complex and changing regulatory regimes, Joseph has become a go-to advisor for companies in the blockchain and virtual currency ecosystem.

As a member of Orrick’s Technology Companies Group, Joseph assists cutting-edge technology companies and investors with general corporate counseling, private venture capital financing, and M&A services. Joseph has had the opportunity to work with some of the most iconic companies in Silicon Valley, advising on corporate strategy and fundraising matters.

Joseph also leads Orrick's international Technology Companies practice connecting Silicon Valley with Japan. He represents a number of technology companies and investors based in Japan, bringing his Silicon Valley experiences to assist founders and corporate venture capital funds. Joseph is fluent in Japanese and retains a strong connection to Japanese companies and our Tokyo practice.

Posts by: Joseph Perkins

Cooperatives: An Ownership Model for Digital Networks

Turbulence in crypto and blockchain has shed light on a question that has received increasing attention: how web3 companies share ownership in digital networks, including through tokens.

As the industry wrestles with this question, builders and investors should consider adding cooperatives to their ownership structures. A handful of web3 projects have done so, but the model is not widely understood in the web3 context.

Credit unions, rural utilities, insurance companies, and agriculture producers often organize as cooperatives. In web3, projects that add cooperatives to their ownership structures could boost participation and reduce regulatory risk while giving users more control of the digital networks they use and a share of the value they create.

The SEC has consistently declined to classify cooperative memberships as securities, enabling cooperatives to distribute ownership to users quickly and easily, while also offering important protections to their members.

A new white paper from Orrick, KPMG and Upside Cooperative explores whether a legal structure common to credit unions and rural utilities could help revitalize blockchain and realize the web3 vision of a new digital world.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

SEC Provides Expectations About Public Company Disclosures Regarding Crypto Ecosystem Impact

What Happened

The Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a sample letter on December 8, 2022, highlighting considerations that public companies that are in, or connected to, the crypto industry should keep in mind as they prepare their public disclosures, spanning the description of business, management’s discussion and analysis (“MD&A”) and risk factor disclosures.

What Public Companies Need to Consider

While the letter highlights additional points for consideration in the business and MD&A sections, the majority of the comments focus on risk factor disclosure, flagging nine key risks, including:

  • any material gaps identified with respect to risk management processes and policies,
  • the “possibility of regulatory developments related to crypto assets and crypto asset markets,” and
  • material risk of reputational harm from recent disruptions.

Additionally, the sample letter also calls for increased disclosure regarding whether any of the crypto assets held or issued by the company serve as collateral for certain activities, as well as any downstream effects experienced by the company as a result of certain bankruptcies in the crypto industry. The sample letter gives insights into general themes of disclosures that the SEC is focused on, including the following: (i) the risk exposure a company has to other actors in the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem (interdependencies within the industry), and (ii) changes to the value of assets held by the company resulting from fluctuations in the larger blockchain market.

In light of the heightened scrutiny faced by companies with exposure to the crypto industry, careful consideration should be given to any public disclosures regarding their operations in order to address the SEC’s concerns of providing adequate information to make a company’s public disclosures not misleading.

Contact Alice Hsu, Daniel Forester, Joseph Perkins or Soo Hwang for guidance on whether your company could be impacted or if you have any questions about navigating this evolving regulatory landscape.

Federal Reserve Requires Banks to Provide Notice Regarding Crypto-Asset-Related Activities

Federal Reserve Requires Banks to Provide Notice Regarding Crypto-Asset-Related Activities

The Federal Reserve Board (“FRB”) announced a significant shift requiring FRB-supervised banking organizations to disclose any current crypto-asset-related activity and to notify FRB in advance of entering into any such business activities in the future. This notification requirement may add some friction to the bank adoption of crypto-asset activities. This announcement follows the OCC’s previous direction to its supervised entities to “notify its supervisory office, in writing of its intention to engage in a range of crypto related activities.” With similar direction aimed at Federal Reserve banks that more regularly interact with crypto projects, legal and regulatory compliance diligence will be even more important.

What Happened

  • On August 16, 2022, FRB issued a letter to all of its supervised banking organizations requiring those institutions to notify their lead FRB supervisory point of contact if such banking organization is engaged in or intend to engage in “crypto-asset-related activities” in order to “ensure such activity is legally permissible and determine whether any filings are required under applicable federal or state laws.”
  • “Crypto-asset-related activities” include crypto-asset safekeeping and traditional custody services; ancillary custody services; facilitation of customer purchases and sales of crypto-assets; loans collateralized by crypto-assets; and issuance and distribution of stablecoins.
  • The letter also specifically referenced stablecoins as potentially posing risks to financial stability if adopted at large scale.

How Will This Affect Banking Organizations?

Supervised banking organizations must:

  • Ensure the Activities Are Legally Permissible
    • Supervised banking organizations must assess the legality of the proposed crypto-asset-related activities under state and federal laws and determine whether any filings are required under federal banking laws, including The Bank Holding Company Act, Home Owners’ Loan Act, Federal Reserve Act, and Federal Deposit Insurance Act.
    • If permissibility is not clear, supervised banking organizations are directed to consult their point of contact at the FRB prior to the commencement of such activities.
  • Notify the Federal Reserve
    • If a supervised banking organization is already engaged in crypto-asset-related activity, it should disclose all activities to its lead supervisory point of contact promptly.
    • Supervised banking organizations must notify their lead supervisory point of contact prior to engaging in crypto-asset-related activity.
  • Enact and Maintain Proper Controls
    • FRB’s letter emphasizes the importance of supervised banking organizations enacting and maintaining adequate risk management and controls related to crypto-asset-related activities, including:
      • Having adequate systems in place to identify, measure, monitor, and control the risks associated with crypto-related activities on an ongoing basis; and
      • Ensuring that these systems cover “operational risks (for example, the risks of new, evolving technologies; the risk of hacking, fraud and theft; and the risk of third-party relationships), financial risk, legal risk, compliance risk (including, but not limited to, compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act, anti-money laundering requirements, and sanctions requirements), and any other risk necessary to ensure the activities are conducted in a manner that is consistent with safe and sound banking and in compliance with applicable law, including applicable consumer protection statutes and regulations.”
    • Consider Notifying State Regulators
      • FRB encourages state member banks to also notify their state regulators prior to engaging in crypto-asset-related activity.

Why Does This Matter?

  • If you are a supervised banking organization that is currently involved in active crypto-asset activities, re-confirm that your activities are compliant and take another look at your service providers to ensure their compliance;
  • If you are a potential partner of a supervised banking organization, expect an even more robust diligence process, time to execution may be extended, and you may face increased ongoing reporting and information disclosure requirements; and
  • For all participants in the crypto-asset space, this is another example of the growing all-hands on deck approach to the regulation of crypto spurred by the Executive Order from earlier this year. The Executive Order’s first objective was to “protect consumer, investors, and businesses,” and we expect to see further action from the FRB and other regulators.

Non-U.S. Crypto and Other Money Services Businesses: Have Customers in the U.S.? Beware of AML and Sanctions Compliance Risk

Two recent guilty pleas involving a cryptocurrency exchange serve as a reminder to all money services businesses (“MSBs”)—including those ostensibly located outside the United States but that conduct business there—of the importance of implementing anti-money laundering (“AML”) programs and registering as MSBs with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”). Last week, two founders and executives of BitMEX—a virtual currency derivatives exchange whose parent company was registered in the Seychelles but operated globally, including in the United States—pled guilty to criminal Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) violations stemming from the company’s willful failure to establish, implement, and maintain an AML program.[1]

The BitMEX enforcement action also highlights sanctions non-compliance risks. Without a Know Your Customer (“KYC”) program, BitMEX carried out transactions for customers based in Iran, a jurisdiction comprehensively sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). As OFAC has made clear, sanctions compliance obligations remain the same regardless of whether transactions are denominated in virtual currency or fiat. A focus on sanctions compliance may become even more critical for cryptocurrency companies in the wake of the new far-reaching Russia-related sanctions imposed by the United States, the EU, and the UK, among other governments, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. OFAC and the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”) have warned that as sanctioned persons and jurisdictions “become more desperate for access to the U.S. financial system,” they are likely to turn to cryptocurrency to minimize the crippling effect of sanctions.

BitMEX Founders’ Guilty Pleas

The two BitMEX founders’ guilty pleas on February 24, 2022 follow the company’s settlement with U.S. regulators in August 2021, which was one of the largest-ever resolutions with a cryptocurrency exchange. While BitMEX was incorporated in the Seychelles, it had connections to the United States, including maintaining offices there and soliciting and accepting orders from U.S. customers. FinCEN and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission found that BitMEX was operating as an unregistered futures commission merchant under the BSA, and that it failed to comply with the BSA’s AML program requirements, including by failing to maintain an adequate customer identification program.  BitMEX resolved the allegations for $100 million, with a $20 million suspended penalty pending the company’s remediation and prevention measures, including ending all operations within the United States and no longer serving any U.S. customers.

The Department of Justice charged four of the company’s founders and executives in October 2020. In announcing that two of them, Arthur Hayes and Benjamin Delo, had pled guilty to willfully violating the BSA, the Department of Justice alleged that these two founders “closely” followed the U.S. regulatory developments and were aware of their BSA obligations due to U.S. customers’ trading on BitMEX. Yet, they allegedly took affirmative steps purportedly designed to exempt BitMEX from the application of U.S. laws like AML requirements and KYC requirements. For example, according to prosecutors, “the defendants caused BitMEX to formally incorporate in the Seychelles, a jurisdiction they believed had less stringent regulation, and from which they could still serve U.S. customers and operate within the United States without performing AML and KYC.” Without “even basic” AML policies in place, BitMEX became “in effect a money laundering platform” and a “vehicle for sanctions violations.”

Takeaways

This development illustrates the significant risks to which foreign-located MSBs expose themselves if they have U.S. customers but fail to comply with the BSA. Incorporating in a “friendlier” jurisdiction, like the Seychelles in the BitMEX case, does not protect an MSB from BSA liability if it operates in the United States. The BSA applies to MSBs “wherever located” if they conduct business “wholly or in substantial part within the United States.” Thus, all MSBs, including those transmitting cryptocurrency—with any U.S. nexus—should take note of the BSA requirements. Those include registering with FinCEN; implementing a written AML program with policies, procedures, and internal controls, including regarding customer identification and verification; and controls to detect and report suspicious activity. The AML programs must be commensurate with the risks posed by the location, size, nature and volume of the services provided by the MSB and be effective in preventing the MSB from being used to facilitate money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

An effective AML/KYC program will also help ensure compliance with sanctions regulations. As noted, cryptocurrency exchanges will likely face increased sanctions risks due to the sweeping sanctions recently imposed against Russian banks, entities, and individuals by the United States, EU, UK, and other governments, and additional measures that may be imposed in the coming days or weeks. As such, cryptocurrency exchanges may face, and must address, “unique risks.”

By implementing a KYC program, which includes sanctions screening, cryptocurrency companies can help ensure they do not engage, directly or indirectly, in transactions prohibited by sanctions, such as dealings with blocked persons or property, or engaging in prohibited trade- or investment-related transactions. To ensure compliance, cryptocurrency exchanges should also employ geolocation and IP-address blocking to prohibit access by parties from sanctioned jurisdictions, perform transaction monitoring to detect suspicious activity, and file required reports with FinCEN and OFAC. Exchanges operating outside the United States that do not yet have but want to attract U.S. users should also consider implementing such measures.

[1] Also last week, on February 25, 2022, BitConnect founder Satish Kumbhani was indicted in a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme, which the government alleges deprived investors worldwide, including in the United States, of over $2 billion. According to the indictment, to avoid regulatory scrutiny and conceal BitConnect’s fraudulent scheme, Kumbhani evaded and circumvented U.S. regulations, including those enforced by the FinCEN. Among other things, BitConnect never registered with FinCEN, as required under the BSA.

Cryptocurrency Transactions and Taxes: 5 Things to Know

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law –garnered attention with its promise to tackle an array of projects, from rebuilding roads and bridges to broadening high-speed internet access.

Provisions in the law that relate to taxing cryptocurrency transactions, however, received less notice. Those measures seek to ensure that taxpayers properly report and pay tax on crypto-related income.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The law redefines “broker” and views digital assets as “specified securities”

The Infrastructure Act makes two significant changes to Section 6045 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). That section requires brokers to report gross proceeds from transactions to the taxpayer and to the IRS. If the item subject to reporting is a “covered security,” the broker must report the customer’s adjusted basis in the security and say whether a gain or loss is long- or short-term. Covered securities are further defined to include “specified securities,” such as stocks, bonds, commodities and other financial instruments.

The Infrastructure Act:

  • Includes digital assets in a list of specified securities. The law defines “digital asset” as “any digital representation of value which is recorded on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger” or similar technology. The definition of digital asset is significant as that term is used in a number of other provisions in the Internal Revenue Code.
  • The provision covers a broad category of digital assets, including traditional cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as well as non-fungible tokens. The Treasury Secretary has authority to exempt types of transactions.
  • Modifies the definition of “broker” to include “any person who (for consideration) is responsible for regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person.”
    • The use of “on behalf another person” is perplexing because the broker already includes a “middleman” concept. On its face, the updated provision would require miners, software developers, transaction validators and node operators to provide information because they provide services in connection with crypto transactions on behalf of users of the software.

2. The law expands reporting requirements to encompass “broker-to-non-broker” transactions

IRC Section 6045A deals with reporting transactions between brokers. It requires every “applicable person” who transfers a covered security (including the “specified securities” discussed above) to a broker to furnish information so the transferee can provide required gain or loss and basis reporting information. The Infrastructure Act expands reporting to cover “broker-to-non-broker” transactions.

3. People receiving more than $10K in digital assets now need to report

IRC Section 6050I requires anyone receiving more than $10,000 in cash in a “trade or business” to report it to the IRS via Form 8300, and to provide a written statement to the payer. It also covers “to the extent provided in regulations” any monetary instrument (whether or not in bearer form) with a face amount of not more than $10,000. Failure to report cash transactions can trigger steep penalties.

The Infrastructure Act amends the Code so that the reporting requirement also applies to people receiving digital assets.

4. It’s not always easy to identify someone who buys a digital asset

Broadening IRC Section 6050I to apply to people receiving digital assets is consistent with the changes described above to Section 6045: viewing digital assets as a specified security and requiring brokers to report information on certain digital transactions.

On the surface, the law’s reporting requirement would apply to people receiving digital assets for validating transactions or other services relating to crypto transactions.

One of the problems this introduces in the world of decentralized finance transactions is the difficulty of identifying the purchaser if the transaction is made through a smart contract rather than from an identifiable person.  Often times these transactions are entered into on an “open” and “trust-less” basis (meaning that there are no limits as to who can participate in the transaction) making it difficult or impossible to report on who the counterparty is (other than by identifying the blockchain wallet address involved in the transaction).

5. Information-gathering starts Jan. 1, 2023

The changes take effect for returns that must be filed and statements that must be furnished after Dec. 31, 2023. Gathering information for that, though, should start Jan. 1, 2023.