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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

SEC says digital asset trading company violated the Exchange Act

Securities Digital Assets SEC Securities Act Enforcement


On September 13, the SEC announced charges against three media companies (respondents) for allegedly violating the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) by conducting an illegal unregistered offering of stock and coin security. In addition, two of the companies were also charged for allegedly conducting an illegal unregistered offering of a digital asset security. According to the SEC’s order, between April and June 2020, the respondents generally solicited thousands of individuals to invest in a common stock offering. During the same time period, two of the companies solicited individuals to invest in their offering of a digital asset coin security. As a result of these two unregistered securities offerings, whose proceeds were commingled, the respondents collectively raised approximately $487 million from over 5,000 investors.

The order finds that, through both the stock and coin offering, the respondents violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act by offering and selling securities without having properly registered. The order, to which the companies consented without admitting or denying the findings, notes that the respondents are banned from participating in any offering of a digital asset security, and are required to cease and desist from future violations of the Securities Act and assist the SEC staff in the administration of a distribution plan, among other things. Two of the companies agreed to pay, jointly and severally, disgorgement of approximately $434 million plus prejudgment interest of approximately $16 million, in addition to a civil penalty of $15 million each. The other company agreed to pay disgorgement of approximately $52 million plus prejudgment interest of almost $2 million, as well as a civil penalty of $5 million. The order also establishes a Fair Fund to return monies to injured investors.

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