Date
23 November 2017
Wall Street regulators say the endorsements may be unlawful if the coins are considered securities. Photo: Reuters
Wall Street regulators say the endorsements may be unlawful if the coins are considered securities. Photo: Reuters

Wall Street regulator warns individuals touting digital coins

Wall Street’s main regulator warned on Wednesday that celebrities or other individuals may be breaking US securities law when promoting investments in initial coin offerings (ICOs), a means for companies to raise funds online, Reuters reports.

ICOs have become an increasingly popular fundraising mechanism for young technology companies, enabling them to quickly raise millions of dollars by creating and selling digital coins online such as bitcoin with little regulatory oversight.

Over the past few months some projects have received endorsements on social media by celebrities including hotel heiress Paris Hilton, boxer Floyd Mayweather and rapper The Game.

But the US Securities and Exchange Commission said that endorsements may be unlawful if the coins are considered securities and the celebrities do not “disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion.”

“A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws,” the SEC’s Enforcement Division and Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations said in a joint statement.

Promoters may also be liable for possible violations of anti-fraud rules and for acting as unregistered brokers, the statement added.

“The SEC will continue to focus on these types of promotions to protect investors and to ensure compliance with the securities laws,” the SEC said.

The SEC’s notice is the latest warning by a global financial regulator on ICOs, which may make companies and individuals involved in the fundraising schemes more cautious.

ICOs have raised US$2.2 billion from January to September, according to data provider Novum Insights.

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