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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

SEC charges companies, founder for operating an unregistered exchange

Securities Digital Assets SEC Enforcement Cryptocurrency


On July 31, the SEC filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against three cryptocurrency trading platforms and their founder for allegedly conducting unregistered offerings of crypto asset securities that raised more than $1 billion in crypto assets from investors. The SEC also claimed that the founder and one of the platforms fraudulently misappropriated at least $12 million of offering proceeds to purchase luxury goods including sports cars, watches, and diamonds.

According to the SEC’s complaint, as early as 2018 the defendants began marketing what they claimed to be the first high-yield “blockchain certificate of deposit,” and promoting tokens as an investment designed to make people “rich.” It is further alleged that from at least December 2019 through November 2020, the defendants offered and sold tokens in an unregistered offering and collected more than 2.3 million cryptocurrency units through “recycling” transactions that enabled the defendants to surreptitiously gain control of more tokens.

The complaint seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, penalties, and other equitable relief.