Elliptic report shows SEC leads U.S. regulators in enforcement actions

A new report from Elliptic shows that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) leads U.S. regulators in monetary penalties against crypto firms by a wide margin. 

Since bitcoin's creation in 2009, regulators have levied $2.5 billion in enforcement actions against various crypto projects. Most of that comes from unregistered securities offerings, according to Elliptic's research.

Of the $2.5 billion, $1.69 billion came from actions brought by the SEC. Most of the SEC's total, $1.38 billion of it, resulted from unregistered securities offerings.

The first major action from the SEC came in 2014 when the agency ordered Bitcoin Savings and Trust to pay more than $40 million in penalties related the Ponzi scheme.

Still, the bulk of the $2.5 billion comes from the close of the Telegram case this year, when TON Issuer Inc. settled with the SEC over its alleged unregistered securities offering. The firm agreed to return over $1.2 billion to investors and pay an additional $18.5 million in penalties.

To put that in perspective, the SEC's disgorgement ordered for all cases in fiscal year 2020 totaled $3.589 billion, while penalties reached $1.091 billion. 

Though the SEC has made up the lion's share of enforcement actions, Elliptic documented that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has so far outstripped the securities regulator in 2021. 

"More recently, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has emerged as a major source of enforcement actions against crypto businesses, for violations relating to fraud, reporting failures and wash trading," said the report.

That refers to the CFTC's case against Benjamin Reynolds, who received a default judgment in New York this year compelling him to pay $572 million over an alleged fraudulent business that solicited bitcoin from victims.