MAS Releases “A Guide to Digital Token Offerings”

On 14 November 2017, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (the “MAS”) released  “A Guide to Digital Token Offerings” providing general guidance on the application of the securities laws administered by the MAS in relation to offers or issues of digital tokens in Singapore.

The main consideration is whether the digital token is designed in a way that would make it a product regulated under Singapore’s securities laws i.e. if it behaves like a share, debenture or some other form of security. If a token does not function like a security, then technically, neither will the security laws apply.

In the first case study in the guide, Company A plans to set up a platform to enable sharing and rental of computing power amongst the users of the platform. In order to raise funds to develop this platform, Company A intends to offer and sell digital tokens wherein the token will have utility upon completion. The MAS states that the digital token in this case study would not constitute a security under the Securities and Futures Act (Cap. 289). It appears that this is because other than the right to access the issuer’s platform to rent computing power, the digital token in question did not appear to have any other “rights” or “features” that made it look like a security.

Therefore, if a digital token is structured in a similar way as set out in this case study, then it would presumably not trigger the relevant Singapore securities laws, notwithstanding the fact that the sale of the token may have been used to fund the building of the platform.

The practical issue to consider then is this:- How will a company convince its investors to purchase such digital tokens in the first place, given that they do not appear to offer any type of rights or features that would give potential purchasers of those digital tokens a return on their investment?

Singapore is devoting huge resources to building the FinTech industry and offering many incentives to new entrants in the jurisdiction. Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) structured like the example herein would seem to be acceptable.

This post was written by Nicholas M. Hanna & Samantha See of  K& L Gates., Copyright 2017

The ABA Presents: Air & Space Law Catalog

Aviation Regulation in the United States

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Illinois Employers Face A Recent Rash of Class Action Lawsuits Filed Under State Biometric Information Privacy Law

Illinois enacted its Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) in 2008 to regulate, among other things, employer collection and use of employee biometric information.  Biometrics is defined as the measurement and analysis of physical and behavioral characteristics.  This analysis produces biometric identifiers that include things like fingerprints, iris or face scans, and voiceprints, all of which can be used in a variety of ways, including for security, timekeeping, and employer wellness programs.

Illinois is not the only state with a biometrics privacy law on its books, however, its version is considered the nation’s most stringent.  BIPA requires a business that collects and uses biometric data to protect the data in the same manner it protects other sensitive or confidential information; to establish data retention and destruction procedures, including temporal limitations of three years; to publish policies outlining its biometric data collection and use procedures; and to obtain prior, informed consent from any individuals from whom it plans to obtain and use biometric data.   The statute also requires  businesses to notify employees in the event of a data breach.

Protection of biometric data is viewed as critical because, unlike passwords comprised of letters, numbers, or typographical characters, biometric data is unique and cannot be replaced or updated in the event of a breach.  Technology now allows biometric data to be captured surreptitiously, such as recording a voice over the phone, or face mapping individuals in a crowd or through photographs, increasing the risk for its theft or unauthorized or at least, unknown, use.  In fact, these more furtive methods of collecting and using biometric data is what led to the filing of five BIPA class action lawsuits in 2015 – four against Facebook, and one against online photo website Shutterfly – that alleged these companies used facial recognition software to analyze online posts, but did not comply with BIPA’s consent or other procedural requirements.  These first lawsuits brought attention to the private right of action authorized under BIPA, which provides that any “aggrieved” person may sue and recover $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation, or, in both circumstances, actual damages if greater than the statutory damages.  Prevailing parties may also recover their attorneys’ fees and costs.

The plaintiffs’ employment bar recently has gotten seriously into the BIPA class action game; since August 2017, approximately 30 lawsuits have been filed in Cook County, Illinois (where Chicago is), alone.  These putative class actions have been filed against employers in many industries including gas stations, restaurants, and retail, and typically involve the employer’s use of fingerprint operated time clocks.  The cases allege that the defendant employers failed to obtain proper informed consent or fail to maintain and inform employees about policies on the company’s use, storage, and destruction of biometric data.  Many of these lawsuits also allege the employer companies have improperly shared employee biometric data with third-party time clock vendors, and some even name the vendor as a defendant.

In addition to the obvious cost of class action litigation, these suits present additional legal challenges because many aspects of BIPA remain untested.  For example, the statutory term “aggrieved” person leaves open the question whether a plaintiff must be able to prove actual harm in order to recover.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York both have dismissed BIPA suits for lack of standing where the plaintiffs did not allege actual harm.  The latter case, Santana v. Take-Two Interactive Software, is currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which heard oral argument in October 2017, but has not yet issued its ruling.   Other aspects of BIPA also remain in flux – such as whether facial recognition through photography is biometric data, as defined under the statute, and what forms of consent are compliant.  On the other side, defendants are challenging the constitutionality of the damages provisions, arguing that their potentially disproportionate nature to any actual harm violates due process.  As these issues are flushed out under BIPA, they are certain to affect other states who have already enacted, or may seek to enact, laws regarding use of biometric data.

This post was written by Daniel B. Pasternak of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP., © Copyright 2017
For more Labor & Employment legal analysis go to The National Law Review 

Uber Hack – Don’t Tell Anyone!

It’s been revealed that Uber’s database has been hacked, with the personal information of more than 57 million users and drivers worldwide compromised. That’s a big number, but we are becoming increasingly numb to this kind of revelation, with all the cyber-leaks now making the news. What was the more astounding aspect of this particular incident is the fact it has taken Uber over a year to reveal the security breach – with the attack taking place in October 2016.

Uber says that the hackers were able to download files containing information including the names and driver’s licence numbers of 600,000 drivers in the US, as well as the names, email addresses and phone numbers of millions of users worldwide.

Although Uber has now taken steps to notify the drivers affected by the hack, it’s reported that at the time of the breach, the company paid the hackers USD100,000 to delete the stolen data, and not reveal the breach.

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani admitted that he became aware of the “inappropriate access [of] user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service” late last year, and that steps were taken to secure the data, and shut down further unauthorised access. However, Mr Khosrowshani noted he has no excuse as to why the massive breach is only being made public now.

For their roles in the cover-up, Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan and his deputy have been ousted, while Uber says it’s taking “several actions”, including consulting the former general counsel of the US’ National Security Agency to prevent a future data breach.

This post was written by Cameron Abbott & Allison Wallace of K & L Gates.,Copyright 2017
For more legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Preparing for the Repeal of Cook County’s Beverage Tax: Requesting Credits and Refunds

Earlier this fall, the Cook County Board voted to repeal its constitutionally suspect, politically unpopular one cent per ounce sweetened beverage tax (Tax). The short-lived Tax will expire at the end of the County’s fiscal year on November 30, 2017.

Having been tasked with implementing the Tax, the Cook County Department of Revenue (Department) is now charged with unwinding it. Distributors and retailers who have paid the Tax are entitled to credits or refunds on their unsold inventory at month’s end. The Department recently issued guidance on the credit/refund procedure.

Retailers that have paid Tax to their distributors may claim a credit/refund from their distributors for Tax paid on their unsold inventory by completing the Department form entitled “2017 Sweetened Beverage Retailer Inventory Credit Request Form and Schedule A.” Retailers should complete and submit the form to their distributors, not the Department.

Distributors must file a final Tax return with the Department on or before December 20 (Final Return). To the extent a distributor already has refunded or credited Tax to its retailers, the distributor may claim a credit for the amount refunded on the “other deductions” line of its Final Return. Distributors must file the Department’s standard refund application, found on the Department’s website, to claim refunds for amounts refunded or credited to retailers after December 20. The Department has issued a new form (the “Sweetened Beverage Tax Distributor Credit Form Schedule”) to be submitted by distributors to the Department in support of any credit or refund claims. The form requires distributors to identify the retailers to which it has provided credits/refunds and the amounts thereof.

Retailers who self-remit the Tax may take a credit on their Final Return with supporting documentation. In addition, retailers that have unsold inventory as of December 1, on which they previously remitted floor tax, may obtain a refund of the floor tax through the Department’s standard refund procedure.

Practice Notes:

  1. To the extent possible, Taxpayers should take advantage of the opportunity to claim a credit on their Final Returns in order to avoid the time and expense associated with the County’s standard refund procedure.
  2. Since the Tax was repealed, enthusiasm has waned for various Illinois House Bills (HB 4082-84) proposing to limit the authority of localities to impose beverage taxes. It’s difficult to predict whether the bills will be enacted.
  3. However, the State of Michigan has passed legislation, signed into law by Governor Snyder on October 26, 2017, which prohibits municipalities from levying local taxes on food or beverages.
This post was written by Lauren A. Ferrante & Mary Kay McCalla Martire of McDermott Will & Emery., © 2017
For more legal go to The National Law Review

Haitian TPS Program Will End in July 2019

Six months after then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announced the extension of Haitian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for only six months (until January 2018, when he would reevaluate the determination), Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate the designation with a delayed effective date of 18 months.  She said this would allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019.

Haitians with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the period. Further details about this termination for TPS will appear in a Federal Register notice. Termination of TPS will affect not only some 50,000-60,000 Haitians who are in the U.S. on TPS, but also their families, including approximately 30,000 U.S.-citizen children born in the U.S. to Haitians in TPS status since 2010 (when TPS was conferred after the earthquake that killed thousands on the island).

A number of advocacy groups, members of Congress, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had been urging a further extension based on ongoing problems from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Haiti’s limited capacity to reabsorb these nationals and family members.  They also highlighted that termination will create labor dislocations in certain construction, food processing, hospitality, and healthcare industries that have relied on Haitian TPS workers since 2010. Florida and Texas may be particularly hard hit as they continue to recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

This post was written by Michael H. Neifach of Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review 

CPSC Finalizes Ban on Certain Children’s Toys and Child Care Articles

On October 27, 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) issued a final rule prohibiting children’s toys and child care articles that contain concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of certain phthalates.

What’s Prohibited

The final rule states children’s toys and child care articles containing concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of diisononyl phthalate (“DINP”), diisobutyl phthalate (“DIBP”), di-n-pentyl phthalate (“DPENP”), di-n-hexyl phthalate (“DHEXP”), and dischyclohexyl phthalate (“DCHP”) are prohibited.

Section 108 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”) prohibits the manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribution in commerce, or importation into the U.S. of any children’s toy or child care article that contains these concentrations of certain phthalates.  Children’s toys include consumer products designed or intended by the manufacturer for a child 12 years or younger for use by the child when the child plays.  A child care article is a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething.

What Are Phthalates

The most common phthalate, DINP, is added to some plastics to make them flexible and is commonly found in automobile interiors, wire and cable insulation, gloves, tubing, garden hoses, and shoes.  DINP is also found in flexible vinyl materials that are used in the production of bedding, garments, outdoor products such as tents and book binders.  Non-PVC or vinyl products include inks, adhesives, sealants, paints and lacquers.  DINP is also a listed substance known to cause cancer under California’s Proposition 65 and products must provide a warning about exposure.

The CPSC determined that because DIBP, DPENP, DHEXP, and DCHP aren’t widely used, few manufacturers will be impacted and need to reformulate their products.  Examples of products containing these phthalates are coating products, fillers, plasters, binding agents, paints, adhesives,

Who’s Affected

The final rule expanded the interim rule concerning DINP to cover all children’s toys, not just those that can be placed in a child’s mouth.  Children’s toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth and child care articles containing more than 0.1 percent of DINP have been prohibited since 2009.  Manufacturers won’t have to reformulate products in these categories.  Only manufacturers of children’s toys that cannot be placed in a child’s mouth will be affected by the final rule.

The final rule applies to both domestic manufacturers and importers and will not be a barrier to international trade.  The prohibition involving DINP applies regardless of the origin of the DINP or the phthalate formulation used.  Children’s toys and child care articles containing DINP in concentrations greater than 0.1 percent are prohibited even if DINP was not intentionally added.

The final rule becomes effective April 25, 2018 and applies to products manufactured or imported on or after that date.

This post was written by Ayako Hobbs of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP., © Copyright 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review