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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

SEC settles with company over misrepresentation of ICO

Securities Enforcement Initial Coin Offerings SEC Securities Act Fintech Digital Assets


On July 14, the SEC announced a settlement with the owners and operators of a software platform provider, resolving allegations that the company violated anti-touting provisions by failing to disclose the compensation it received from issuers of the digital asset securities it profiled. According to the order, the company’s website, which was accessible in the U.S. from 2016 to August 2019, publicized offerings for digital tokens. The platform claimed to “list” or profile the “best” token offerings, such as so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs) and initial exchange offerings. The company also allegedly claimed that its “mission [was] to make it easy and safe for people around the world to join ICOs.” According to the order, the platform profiled more than 2,500 different token offerings, which compromised fundraising of over $10 billion. The SEC alleged that the company violated provisions of the Securities Act, such as Section 2(a), because the digital tokens publicized by the company included those that were offered and sold as investment contracts, and 17(b), because the company promoted a security without disclosing that they received compensation for doing so. The order, which the company consented to without admitting or denying the findings, imposes a civil money penalty of $154,434 and $43,000 in disgorgement, and provides that the company must cease and desist from committing or causing any future violations of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws. SEC Commissioners Hester M. Peirce and Elad L. Roisman dissented from the settlement, stating they agreed that “touting securities without disclosing the fact that you are getting paid, and how much, violates Section 17(b)” but “[they] are disappointed that the Commission’s settlement with [the company] did not explain which digital assets touted by [the company] were securities[.]”

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