On January 26, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced that it entered into a $22.5 million settlement agreement with a Cayman Islands digital asset firm to resolve a securities enforcement action regarding its interest-bearing virtual currency account. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in September 2022, the New York attorney general sued the firm for allegedly offering unregistered securities and defrauding investors. A North American Securities Administrators Association working group—composed of the DFPI and state regulators from Washington, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin—collaborated in the investigation into the firm. The states alleged that the platform failed to register as a securities and commodities broker but told investors that it was fully in compliance. According to the New York AG’s complaint, the platform promoted and sold securities through an interest-bearing virtual currency account that promised high returns for participating investors. The New York AG said that a cease-and-desist letter was sent to the platform in October 2021, and that while the platform stated it was “working diligently to terminate all services” in the state, it continued to handle more than 5,000 accounts as of July. The complaint charges the platform with violating New York’s Martin Act and New York Executive Law § 63(12), and seeks restitution, disgorgement of profits, and a permanent injunction. The announcement also noted the SEC entered into a separate settlement with the firm for the same penalty amount, alleging that it to register the offer and sale of its retail crypto-asset lending product (covered by InfoBytes here).
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