The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened investigations into dozens of startups operating in the cryptocurrency space, an agency official confirmed on Thursday.
Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, confirmed rumors that the agency was investigating a large number of initial coin offering (ICO) operators and associated firms for violations of federal securities regulations.
“We are very active, and I would just expect to see more and more,” Avakian said at an Investment Adviser Association conference in Washington, according to a report in Bloomberg Law. “We’re doing obviously a lot in the crypto space, and we’re seeing a lot in the crypto space.”
Avakian stated last year that ICOs were quickly becoming a priority for the SEC’s enforcement division, and the agency has made clear its intent to police the markets for this nascent fundraising mechanism.
Earlier this month, reports emerged that the SEC had issued as many as 80 subpoenas to ICO operators and advisers, seeking to investigate whether they had violated federal laws by holding unregistered securities offerings.
Overstock, whose subsidiary tZero is attempting to raise $250 million through an ICO, acknowledged that its token sale was under investigation, though CEO Patrick Byrne said that the company was voluntarily complying with the probe and had not received a subpoena. The firm has also complained that the probe is threatening not only its ICO but also its core business as an e-commerce retailer.
The SEC is also reportedly probing cryptoasset hedge funds for conflicts of interest, as well as information on how fund managers are valuing assets in their portfolios.
Finally, the agency has warned cryptocurrency exchanges that it is unlawful for them to list security tokens without registering with the agency as a securities trading platform — a significant statement, given the SEC’s broad interpretation of what tokens constitute securities.
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