Despite a few outliers, most defendants in SEC settlements continue to settle cases "without admitting or denying" the allegations against them. While such language was also included in the Order memorializing the settlement of the SEC's recent administrative proceeding In the Matter of Sand Hill Exchange, et al., the settlement was quickly followed by an unusual video from Gerrit Hall, the founder of the Sand Hill Exchange, in which he stated that he did, in fact,
personally accept all responsibility for any and all wrongdoing throughout the entirety of Sand Hill Exchange. In particular, while trying to grow our waitlist, I utilized aggressive marketing tactics and I misused words that are highly charged in the financial sector. I should have been less sloppy in my execution and more deliberate in my language. Please accept my sincerest regrets.
Hall explained that the Sand Hill Exchange -- a Silicon Valley twist on fantasy sports that let users "draft your favorite startups into a portfolio for competition" -- ran afoul of the SEC when it started a private beta test for 55 friends, family, and power users that accepted about $3,000 in deposits. The SEC found that the Sand Hill Exchange constituted a securities-based swap that was being sold in violation of certain provisions of Dodd-Frank. Hall said that as part of the settlement, Sand Hill Exchange terminated the beta test and refunded the deposits.
Hall also offered some feedback for the SEC. He said that while he has great empathy for government regulators, "I would suggest that the enforcement tactics necessary to subdue criminal activity at large banks are not congruent with the enforcement tactics necessary to regulate innovation at small scale startups." Hall said that he joined the call for the
creation of financial innovation sandboxes. This would allow small opt-in communities with an understanding of the risks to try out new FinTech products in a regulated environment. This would be a win for regulators and also would keep top innovators from fleeing the United States.