The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a plan from online retailer Overstock.com to issue company stock via the Internet, signaling a significant shift in the way financial securities will be distributed and traded in the years to come.
Over the past year, Overstock and its freethinking CEO, Patrick Byrne, have developed technology for issuing financial securities by way of the blockchain, the vast online ledger underpinning the bitcoin digital currency. The blockchain is essentially an enormous database that runs across a global network of independent computers. With bitcoin, this ledger tracks the exchange of money. But it can also track the exchange of anything else that holds value, including stocks, bonds, and other financial securities. Overstock has already used the blockchain to issue private bonds, which did not require explicit regulatory approval. Now, the SEC has told the company it can issue public securities in much the same way.
Such a system could eliminate the unnecessary middlemen who have traditionally controlled the market.
Public documents filed by Overstock show that the SEC has approved an amended Form S-3 that would allow the company to issue public securities via