US SEC targets hundreds of ICOs

Source: DeCrypt, Oct 2018

During the past few months, the Securities and Exchange Commission has significantly widened its crackdown on certain initial coin offerings, putting hundreds of cryptocurrency startups at risk.

The SEC sent out a slew of initial information-seeking subpoenas at the start of 2018. Now the agency has returned to many of those companies, and subpoenaed many more—focusing on those that failed to properly ensure they sold their token exclusively to accredited investors.

The agency is exerting pressure on many of those companies to settle their cases. In response, dozens of companies have quietly agreed to refund investor money and pay a fine. But many startups that have been subpoenaed say they are left in the dark struggling to satisfy the SEC’s demands, and are uncertain of how others are handling it, according to conversations with more than 15 industry sources as part of a joint investigation by Yahoo Finance and Decrypt.

William Hinman, the SEC’s director of corporation finance, provided further clarity in June at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit when he said ether does not appear to be a security, but suggested that most ICOs are securities offerings, and that, “calling the transaction an initial coin offering, or ‘ICO,’ or a sale of a ‘token,’ will not take it out of the purview of the U.S. securities laws.”

Any U.S. company offering a security must register its offering with the SEC, or qualify for an exemption. Amid the ICO boom, virtually none have registered a security offering. Thus, they must meet an exemption. The SEC exemptions include selling only to investors outside the U.S., or selling only to accredited investors, which are individuals with income higher than $200,000 in each of the past two years or a minimum net worth of $1 million.

ehind closed doors, many more negotiations are underway. The SEC has gotten dozens of ICOs to refund buyers and pay a fine, simply by reaching out and asking questions.

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