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May 19, 2022

Sohrab “Sam” Sharma, Robert Farkas, and Raymond Trapani will disgorge over $40 million for raising more than $32 million from investors in their unregistered ICO of “CTR tokens” through their controlled entity, Centra Tech Inc. The fraudsters made material misrepresentations in their marketing of the tokens, including claiming partnerships with Visa, MasterCard, and The Bancorp; created fake executive bios; misrepresented the company’s viability; and manipulated trading in the tokens to generate interest. The three defendants have been sentenced to imprisonment in addition to the financial penalties levied. SEC

May 6, 2022

NVIDIA Corporation has agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay a $5.5 million penalty for violations of the Securities Act and the disclosure provisions of the Securities Exchange Act. NVIDIA failed to disclose cryptomining as a significant element of its material revenue growth, depriving investors of critical information related to the investment’s volatility. SEC

March 10, 2022

The founders of cryptocurrency company Bitqyck, Bruce Bise and Samuel Mendez, have been sentenced to 8 years in prison for tax evasion, two years after an $8 million settlement with the SEC for charges of defrauding over 13,000 investors of $24 million.  According to the DOJ press release, Bise and Mendex each diverted over $4 million of investor funds for personal expenses, then underreported their income and failed to file corporate tax returns for Bitqyck.  USAO NDTX

February 14, 2022

BlockFi, Inc. will pay a total of $100 million to resolve SEC and state claims arising from its sale to retail customers of cryptocurrency lending products, including its BlockFi Interest Accounts.  Through the “BIAs,” investors lent cryptocurrency assets to BlockFi in exchange for the company’s promise to provide a variable monthly interest payment.  The SEC alleged that the BIAs were securities, offered without registration, that BlockFi operated as an unregistered investment company, and made false and misleading statements about risk levels.  SEC

October 15, 2021

iFinex Inc. and related entities doing business as cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex, agreed to pay $1.5 million to resolve charges that they operated as an unregistered futures commission merchant (FCM) and engaged in illegal, off-exchange retail commodity transactions in digital assets with U.S. persons that were not eligible contract participants (ECPs).  The CFTC found that Bitfinex allowed margin trading financed through a peer-to-peer funding program through which Bitfinex customers who held fiat or cryptocurrency in their Bitfinex account would “lend” those funds to other Bitfinex customers who would then use those funds to buy, sell, and trade on the Bitfinex platform, in violation of a 2016 CFTC orderCFTC

October 15, 2021

Tether Holdings Limited and related entities, issuers of the “Tether Token” or USDt, have agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $41 million to resolve allegations that they violated the CEA and CFTC regulations by making untrue or misleading statements and/or omitting material facts through statements that Tether maintained sufficient U.S. dollar and other fiat currency reserves in bank accounts to back every USDt in circulation.  In fact, Tether did not hold sufficient currency reserves at all times.  The reserves were inadequate in amount, and were not held in currency in bank accounts, but instead included unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets, which were held by unregulated entities and third-parties including Bitfinex, which commingled reserve funds with operational and customer funds.  The CFTC also found that Tether failed to perform routine professional audits as represented.  CFTC

September 28, 2021

Payward Ventures, Inc., d/b/a Kraken has been ordered to pay a $1.25 million civil monetary penalty for violating the Commodity Exchange Act.  According to the CFTC, for a year ending in July 2021, Kraken illegally offered commodity transactions in retail assets, despite failing to register as a futures commission merchant.  CFTC

September 13, 2021

GTV Media Group Inc., Saraca Media Group Inc., and Voice of Guo Media Inc. will collectively pay more than $539 million to resolve SEC and New York State claims related to their alleged unregistered offering of GTV common stock and a digital asset security referred to as G-Coins or G-Dollars.  The SEC found that the respondents publicized the two offerings on their websites and social media platforms, raising approximately $487 million from more than 5,000 investors.  No registration statements were filed, and no registration exemption applied.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, respondents agreed to pay disgorgement of $486 million plus interest, and penalties totaling $35 million.  SEC; NY

August 10, 2021

The principles of the Global Trading Club, Mayco Alexis Maldonado Garcia, Cesar Castaneda, and Joel Castaneda Garcia, consented to an order requiring payments totaling $1.75 million in restitution and civil penalties.  The CFTC alleged that the individual falsely represented that GTC employed “master traders” in cryptocurrency transactions, promised returns to customers, and caused misleading trading statements to be posted online.  The order bars the individuals from registering with the CFTC and from trading commodity interests.  CFTC

August 10, 2021

Five companies that operate the BitMEX cryptocurrency platform will pay a total of $100 million to resolve claims that the platform operated a facility to trade or process swaps without being approved as a Designated Contract Market (DCM) or a Swap Execution Facility (SEF), operated as an unregistered futures commission merchant (FCM), and failed to implement anti-money laundering procedures.  HDR Global Trading Limited, 100x Holding Limited, ABS Global Trading Limited, Shine Effort Inc Limited, and HDR Global Services (Bermuda) Limited jointly operated BitMEX, which offered leveraged trading of cryptocurrency derivatives, including to customers in the U.S.  BitMEX acted as a counterparty in certain transactions, and accepted bitcoin to margin digital asset derivative transactions.  BitMEX allowed customers to access its platform and conduct derivative trading without verifying customer identity beyond the collection of an email address, and failed to report suspicious activity as required. As part of the settlement, BitMEX certified that it terminated its U.S. business operations, barred access to the platform by U.S. customers, and had undertaken verification procedures for existing customers.  $50 million of the $100 million penalty will be paid to the CFTC, with $30 million of the remainder paid immediately to FinCEN, and an additional $20 million to FinCEN suspended pending defendants’ undertaking of specific compliance procedures.  CFTC; FinCEN
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