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The U.S. Supreme Court's Howey case and subsequent case law have found that an "investment contract" exists when there is the investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits to be derived from the efforts of others.[5] The so-called "Howey test" applies to any contract, scheme, or transaction, regardless of whether it has any of the characteristics of typical securities.[6] The focus of the Howey analysis is not only on the form and terms of the instrument itself (in this case, the digital asset) but also on the circumstances surrounding the digital asset and the manner in which it is offered, sold, or resold (which includes secondary market sales). Therefore, issuers and other persons and entities engaged in the marketing, offer, sale, resale, or distribution of any digital asset will need to analyze the relevant transactions to determine if the federal securities laws apply.




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In this guidance, we provide a framework for analyzing whether a digital asset is an investment contract and whether offers and sales of a digital asset are securities transactions. As noted above, under the Howey test, an "investment contract" exists when there is the investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits to be derived from the efforts of others. Whether a particular digital asset at the time of its offer or sale satisfies the Howey test depends on the specific facts and circumstances. We address each of the elements of the Howey test below.


Digital assets with these types of use or consumption characteristics are less likely to be investment contracts. For example, take the case of an online retailer with a fully-developed operating business. The retailer creates a digital asset to be used by consumers to purchase products only on the retailer's network, offers the digital asset for sale in exchange for real currency, and the digital asset is redeemable for products commensurately priced in that real currency. The retailer continues to market its products to its existing customer base, advertises its digital asset payment method as part of those efforts, and may "reward" customers with digital assets based on product purchases. Upon receipt of the digital asset, consumers immediately are able to purchase products on the network using the digital asset. The digital assets are not transferable; rather, consumers can only use them to purchase products from the retailer or sell them back to the retailer at a discount to the original purchase price. Under these facts, the digital asset would not be an investment contract.


The discussion above identifies some of the factors market participants should consider in assessing whether a digital asset is offered or sold as an investment contract and, therefore, is a security. It also identifies some of the factors to be considered in determining whether and when a digital asset may no longer be a security. These factors are not intended to be exhaustive in evaluating whether a digital asset is an investment contract or any other type of security, and no single factor is determinative; rather, we are providing them to assist those engaging in the offer, sale, or distribution of a digital asset, and their counsel, as they consider these issues. We encourage market participants to seek the advice of securities counsel and engage with the Staff through www.sec.gov/finhub.


[4] This framework is intended to be instructive and is based on the Staff's experiences to date and relevant law and legal precedent. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the legal and regulatory issues relevant to conducting an analysis of whether a product is a security, including an investment contract analysis with respect to digital assets generally. We expect that analysis concerning digital assets as securities may evolve over time as the digital asset market matures. Also, no one factor is necessarily dispositive as to whether or not an investment contract exists.


[6] Whether a contract, scheme, or transaction is an investment contract is a matter of federal, not state, law and does not turn on whether there is a formal contract between parties. Rather, under the Howey test, "form [is] disregarded for substance and the emphasis [is] on economic reality." Howey, 328 U.S. at 298. The Supreme Court has further explained that that the term security "embodies a flexible rather than a static principle" in order to meet the "variable schemes devised by those who seek the use of the money of others on the promise of profits." Id. at 299.


[9] The lack of monetary consideration for digital assets, such as those distributed via a so-called "bounty program" does not mean that the investment of money prong is not satisfied. As the Commission explained in The DAO Report, "[i]n determining whether an investment contract exists, the investment of 'money' need not take the form of cash" and "in spite of Howey's reference to an 'investment of money,' it is well established that cash is not the only form of contribution or investment that will create an investment contract." The DAO Report at 11 (citation omitted). See In re Tomahawk Exploration LLC, Securities Act Rel. 10530 (Aug. 14, 2018) (issuance of tokens under a so-called "bounty program" constituted an offer and sale of securities because the issuer provided tokens to investors in exchange for services designed to advance the issuer's economic interests and foster a trading market for its securities). Further, the lack of monetary consideration for digital assets, such as those distributed via a so-called "air drop," does not mean that the investment of money prong is not satisfied; therefore, an airdrop may constitute a sale or distribution of securities. In a so-called "airdrop," a digital asset is distributed to holders of another digital asset, typically to promote its circulation.


[10] In order to satisfy the "common enterprise" aspect of the Howey test, federal courts require that there be either "horizontal commonality" or "vertical commonality." See Revak v. SEC Realty Corp., 18 F.3d. 81, 87-88 (2d Cir. 1994) (discussing horizontal commonality as "the tying of each individual investor's fortunes to the fortunes of the other investors by the pooling of assets, usually combined with the pro-rata distribution of profits" and two variants of vertical commonality, which focus "on the relationship between the promoter and the body of investors"). The Commission, on the other hand, does not require vertical or horizontal commonality per se, nor does it view a "common enterprise" as a distinct element of the term "investment contract." In re Barkate, 57 S.E.C. 488, 496 n.13 (Apr. 8, 2004); see also the Commission's Supplemental Brief at 14 in SEC v. Edwards, 540 U.S. 389 (2004) (on remand to the 11th Circuit).


[16] We recognize that holders of digital assets may put forth some effort in the operations of the network, but those efforts do not negate the fact that the holders of digital assets are relying on the efforts of the AP. That a scheme assigns "nominal or limited responsibilities to the [investor] does not negate the existence of an investment contract." SEC v. Koscot Interplanetary, Inc., 497 F.2d 473, 483 n.15 (5th Cir. 1974) (citation and quotation marks omitted). If the AP provides efforts that are "the undeniably significant ones, those essential managerial efforts which affect the failure or success of the enterprise," and the AP is not merely performing ministerial or routine tasks, then there likely is an investment contract. See Turner, 474 U.S. at 482; see also The DAO Report (although DAO token holders had certain voting rights, they nonetheless reasonably relied on the managerial efforts of others). Managerial and entrepreneurial efforts typically are characterized as involving expertise and decision-making that impacts the success of the business or enterprise through the application of skill and judgment.


To help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.


Our immense purchasing power and world-class suppliers have produced an extensive portfolio of cooperative purchasing contracts and partnerships, making OMNIA Partners the most valued and trusted resource for organizations nationwide.


All contracts available through OMNIA Partners are competitively solicited and publicly awarded by a lead agency (government entity/educational institution), using a competitive solicitation process consistent with applicable procurement laws and regulations.


The Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 365, provides that, subject to court approval and certain limitations discussed below, debtors can assume or reject any executory contract or unexpired lease. It is an area of the law described as a "thicket . . . where . . . lurks a hopelessly convoluted and contradictory jurisprudence." In re Drexel Burnham Lambert Group, Inc., 138 B.R. 687, 690 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1992) (quoting Andrew, Executory Contracts Revisited: A Reply to Professor Westbrook, 62 U. Colo. L. Rev. 1 (1991)). "[I]n no area of bankruptcy has the law become more psychedelic than in the one titled 'executory contracts.'" Drexel Burnham, 138 B.R. at 690 (quoting Westbrook, A Functional Analysis of Executory Contracts, 74 Minn. L. Rev. 227, 228 (1989)).


A. What is an executory contract? The Code does not define "executory contract", but most courts have adopted this definition: "a contract under which the obligation of both the bankrupt and the other party to the contract are so far unperformed that the failure of either to complete performance would constitute a material breach excusing the performance of the other." Countryman, Executory Contracts in Bankruptcy: Part I, 57 Minn. L. R. 439, 460 (1973); In re Murexco Petroleum, Inc., 15 F.3d 60 (5th Cir. 1994); In re Texscan Corp., 976 F.2d 1269 (9th Cir. 1992); United States v. Floyd, 882 F.2d 233, 235 (7th Cir. 1989); Sharon Steel Corp. v. National Fuel Gas Distrib. Corp., 872 F.2d 36, 39 (3d Cir. 1989); In re Speck, 798 F.2d 279, 279-80 (8th Cir. 1986); Gloria Mfg. Corp. v. International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, 734 F.2d 1020, 1021 (4th Cir. 1984); In re Chateaugay Corp., 130 B.R. 162, 164 (S.D.N.Y 1991); see generally Andrew, Executory Contracts In Bankruptcy: Understanding Rejection, 59 U. Colo. L. Rev. 845 (1988) (executory contract means "simply a contract under which (a) debtor and non-debtor each have unperformed obligations and (b) the debtor, if it ceases further performance, would have no right to the other party's continued performance"); H.R. Rep. No. 95-595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 347 (1977)("[t]hough there is no precise definition of what contracts are executory, it generally includes contracts on which performance remains due to some extent on both sides."). However, some courts have begun to move away from Countryman's approach and have adopted a "functional approach" which works "backward from an examination of the purposes to be accomplished by rejection, and if they have already been accomplished then the contract cannot be executory." See, e.g., In re Magness, 972 F.2d 689, 693 (6th Cir. 1992); In re Cardinal Indus., Inc., 146 B.R. 720 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 1992) (discusses how 6th Circuit has adopted both Countryman definition and functional approach); In re General Dev. Corp., 177 B.R. 1000, 1013 (S.D. Fla. 1995); In re Drexel Burnham Lambert Group, Inc., 138 B.R. 703, 708 n.24 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1992). 041b061a72


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