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SEC appoints new cyber unit chief to police ICOs and other blockchain ‘violations’

Yogita Khatri

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has appointed Kristina Littman as the new chief of its cyber unit, which targets “violations” involving initial coin offerings (ICOs) and distributed ledger or blockchain technology.

Littman succeeds Robert Cohen, who left the SEC in August, according to an announcement Monday. Cohen led several cryptocurrency cases, including suing Kik Interactive for allegedly selling unregistered securities as part of its $100 million ICO. Cohen left the SEC to join law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as a partner.

Littman is an internal hire, who joined the SEC’s division of enforcement in 2010 as a staff attorney in Philadelphia. Since then, she held senior attorney positions in the market abuse unit and the trial unit. Littman has served as senior advisor to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, where she advised on regulatory and policy matters relating to cryptocurrencies and digital assets, trading and markets and investment management.

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

The SEC set up the cyber unit in Sept. 2017 to focus on targeting cyber-related crimes, including market manipulation schemes and “misconduct perpetrated using the dark web,” among others. “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,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said at the time.