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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

SEC conducts its first-ever NFT enforcement again

Fintech Securities SEC Enforcement Cryptocurrency NFT Digital Assets


On August 28, the SEC entered an order against a Los Angeles-based media and entertainment company charging them with conducting an unregistered offering of crypto asset securities in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).  According to the order, the company offered and sold different tiers of NFTs to hundreds of investors between October and December of 2021, and ultimately raised approximately $30 million from the sales. The SEC alleged that the company encouraged potential investors to purchase the unregistered NFTs in return for an investment in the business, promising “tremendous value” to the purchasers if the company was successful in its attempts to “build the next Disney” and launch other creative projects. The order found that the NFTs were ultimately investment contracts and therefore securities, and that the company subsequently violated federal securities laws by offering and selling crypto assets in an unregistered securities offering that was not otherwise exempt from registration requirements.

The SEC noted that all securities, in whatever form, are required to be registered and that when companies fail to register securities, “investors of all types are deprived of the protections afforded them by the robust disclosures and other safeguards long provided by our securities laws.”  The company did not admit or deny the findings set forth in the order but agreed to cease-and-desist from violating registration provisions of the 1933 Act and pay a combined penalty of over $6.1 million in fees. The order also establishes a “Fair Fund” to return money to investors who paid to purchase NFTs.

On the same day, the SEC released a statement from Republican commissioners, Hester M. Peirce and Mark T. Uyeda, underscoring the significance of the commission’s first NFT enforcement action. “People are experimenting with a lot of different uses of NFTs,” said the commissioners in their partial dissents. “Consequently, any attempt to use this enforcement action as precedent is fraught with difficulty.” The commissioners further criticized the SEC’s failure to provide guidance on NFTs when they first started proliferating and raised several questions.