SEC names new Cyber Unit chief

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced senior advisor Kristina Littman will lead a cyber unit that has increasingly focused on unregulated and fraudulent cryptocurrency activity.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that senior advisor Kristina Littman will become the new Cyber Unit chief for its Enforcement Division.

Littman has been at the commission since 2010, previously serving as a staff attorney in the division’s Philadelphia office and senior attorney in the Market Abuse And Trial Units. She has a background advising Chairman Jay Clayton on enforcement, cryptocurrency policies and digital assets. According to her LinkedIn profile, she also worked as a law clerk for the New Jersey Supreme Court and did stints with law firms Drinker, Biddle and Reath as well as Miller, Alfano and Raspanti.

“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,” Clayton said in a statement. “She will be an excellent leader for the Cyber Unit as it continues its work in this critical and continually evolving area.”

Littman will succeed Robert Cohen, who left the agency this past August and Carolyn Welshhans, who has served as acting chief since.

The SEC Cyber Unit was created in 2017 and focuses on enforcement matters related to online market manipulation, computer hacking to obtain nonpublic information, cryptocurrency crime and cyber-related threats to trading platforms and other critical market infrastructure.

As cryptocurrencies have become a popular vehicle for conducting criminal activity, the federal government has moved to better track and regulate their use. Over the past three years, the SEC has undertaken dozens of enforcement actions against groups and individuals for legal and regulatory violations involving digital currencies.

Much of its focus has been on reining in initial coin offerings (ICOs), or fundraising vehicles for investors to purchase speculative tokens for new or emerging cryptocurrencies. Such offerings can crowdsource millions of dollars in funding and are legally considered securities by the SEC. In its 2018 annual report, the commission noted that such offerings have “exploded” over the past year. Many fail to register with the government, however, and “some of the offerings are simply outright frauds cloaked in the veneer of emerging technology.”

In October, the commission filed an emergency action and restraining order against Telegram Group for operating an unregistered digital token offering that raised $1.7 billion from investors. In a separate action, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and musician DJ Khaled were served cease and desist letters last year for promoting ICOs online without disclosing payments they received from the groups.