SEC appoints new head of cyber unit to tackle ICOs

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has appointed a new head of its cyber unit, tasked with tackling abuses relating to the ICO sector.

The regulator announced the appointment of Kristina Littman to the post, succeeding Robert Cohen who left in August. Part of the role involves overseeing initial coin offerings and other “blockchain violations.”

During Cohen’s tenure, the cyber unit was active in a number of high profile lawsuits, including against Kik Interactive over its $100 million ICO, with the SEC alleging this constituted an unregistered security offering.

Cohen’s departure saw him leave to become a partner in law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, creating the vacancy at the head of the cyber division.

Littman has worked with the SEC since 2010, serving as a senior attorney in both the trial and market abuse units of the regulator. She also served beside Chairman Jay Clayton as senior advisor on legal and regulatory issues around cryptocurrency.

Welcoming the appointment, SEC chairman Jay Clayton said Littman brings “extensive experience” to the role as head of the cyber unit, against a constantly evolving regulatory landscape.

Kristy’s innovative thinking and extensive experience within the Commission have made her an invaluable advisor and, most importantly, a tireless defender of America’s investors. She will be an excellent leader for the Cyber Unit as it continues its work in this critical and continually evolving area.

The cyber unit was established in late 2017, at a time of increasing levels of cybercrime around cryptocurrencies. Most notably, fraud and market manipulation became prevalent with the growing interest in cryptocurrencies across the United States.

At the time, co-director of the enforcement division at the SEC Stephanie Avakian said these were amongst the most significant risks faced by investors in cryptocurrency, and that the unit was set up specifically to tackle these problems.

“Cyber-related threats and misconduct are among the greatest risks facing investors and the securities industry. The Cyber Unit will enhance our ability to detect and investigate cyber threats through increasing expertise in an area of critical national importance,” she said.

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