The Securities and Exchange Commission reeled in the crypto industry in a "highly productive and impactful year" as it brought charges against big names in the sector and celebrities.
The SEC said it filed 784 total enforcement actions in the fiscal year 2023, up 3 percent from the year prior, with a staunch focus on threats it sees involving crypto. Of those hundreds of filings, the SEC charged crypto firms and individuals from Coinbase and Sam Bankman-Fried to celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.
“The investing public benefits from the Division of Enforcement’s work as a cop on the beat,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in a statement. “Last fiscal year’s results demonstrate yet again the Division’s effectiveness — working alongside colleagues throughout the agency — in following the facts and the law wherever they lead to hold wrongdoers accountable.”
The SEC's enforcement division recommended actions addressing a wide range from crypto fraud to unregistered crypto offerings and celebrities illegally touting crypto, according to the report.
Gensler has been consistent in his messaging that crypto firms need to register with the agency and has said most cryptocurrencies are indeed securities. Last week at DC Fintech Week, Gensler warned that there are still "multiple notorious fraudsters" in the sector.
The SEC brought charges this past year against Terraform Labs and its founder Do Kwon, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, crypto lender Celsius, among others. Exchanges were also a main focus for the agency with charges filed against Bittrex, Binance, Beaxy and Coinbase.
The agency also brought its first charges against NFTs, when it charged a Los Angeles-based podcasting studio with "conducting an unregistered offering of crypto asset securities," and shortly after charged Stoner Cats 2 LLC with similar charges.
Celebrities also faced the music, including media personality Kim Kardashian, NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, actress Lindsay Lohan and YouTuber Jake Paul who all agreed to settle after the SEC said they promoted certain cryptocurrencies without disclosing that they had been paid to do so.
The SEC brought in $4.949 billion in financial remedies in total, the second highest amount in the agency's history, according to the report. The agency also distributed $930 million to investors that were harmed by wrongdoers this past year.
Elsewhere, the agency brought record-keeping related charges against Wells Fargo and HSBC, charges against Citadel Securities LLC over inaccurate data and fraud charges against the former CEO of McDonald's.
"So what does this all mean?" Gensler said in a video on X. "It means that the SEC is hard at work on your behalf. We have and will continue to prevent future wrongdoings, hold accountable those who try to game the system, and protect investors so that our markets remain robust, dynamic, and fair to all."
Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET to include details throughout
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