The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered cryptocurrency trading platform Bittrex and its foreign affiliate to pay $24 million for running an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency.
Bittrex and Bittrex Global agreed to pay disgorgement of $14.4 million, a civil penalty of $5.6 million, and prejudgment interest of $4 million, the SEC announced in a press release Thursday. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The settlement resolves charges announced in April against Bittrex and its co-founder and former Chief Executive William Shihara. In March, Bittrex disclosed plans to exit the U.S. market after deeming operations in the country “no longer feasible” amid heightened regulatory scrutiny. In May, the company filed for bankruptcy in the United States.
The details: Bittrex launched in 2014, providing services to U.S. investors in connection with crypto assets the SEC’s complaint alleged were offered and sold as securities.
While serving as CEO from 2014-19, Shihara directed issuers to delete certain “problematic statements” from public channels to hide from regulators crypto assets that were offered and sold as securities, the SEC alleged.
“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,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in the agency’s release. “… I am grateful to the SEC staff for aggressively pursuing noncompliance in the crypto industry, resolving this matter, and bringing additional relief to harmed investors.”
Company response: “We are delighted to have reached a settlement agreement with the SEC so quickly following the submission of our motion to dismiss. The agreement has now been submitted to the court for approval, and we will be able to comment further once that process is complete,” a Bittrex Global spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Bittrex and Bittrex Global agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations.