Crypto asset trading platform Bittrex and its co-founder and former CEO, William Shihara, have agreed to settle charges with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for $24 million over charges that they operated as an unregistered exchange, broker and clearing agency.
Bittrex’s foreign affiliate, Bittrex Global GmbH, also agreed to settle charges that it failed to register as a national securities exchange.
“For years, Bittrex worked with token issuers to ‘scrub’ their online statements of any indicia that they were investment contracts — all in an effort to evade the federal securities laws. They failed,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
The settlement makes clear that “you cannot escape liability by simply changing labels or altering descriptions because what matters is the economic realities of those offerings”, Grewal added.
As alleged in the SEC’s complaint, Bittrex acted as an unregistered broker, exchange, and clearing agency by providing services to US investors in connection with crypto assets that were offered and sold as securities.
Bittrex and Shihara allegedly directed issuers who sought to have their crypto assets made available for trading on Bittrex’s platform to first delete from public channels certain “problematic statements” that Shihara believed would lead a regulator to investigate whether the crypto asset was offered and sold as a security.
As part of the settlement, the defendants neither admit nor deny the SEC’s allegations.
Bittrex and Bittrex Global have agreed to pay $14.4 million, prejudgment interest of $4 million, and a civil penalty of $5.6 million, for a total monetary payment of $24 million.