The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged crypto exchange Bittrex and its co-founder and former CEO William Shihara with operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency.
The SEC also charged Bittrex Global GmbH, Bittrex’s foreign affiliate, for failing to register as a national securities exchange in connection with its operation of a single shared order book along with Bittrex.
In a new press release, the SEC alleges that since 2014, Bittrex has facilitated the buying and selling of crypto assets in a way that violates securities laws.
From 2017 through 2022, Bittrex earned at least $1.3 billion in revenues, while servicing US investors as a broker, exchange, and clearing agency without registering any of these activities with the Commission, according to the SEC.
The complaint further alleges that Bittrex and Shihara coordinated with issuers to delete “problematic statements” from public channels that could lead a regulator, such as the SEC, to conduct investigations.
Says SEC Chair Gary Gensler,
“Today’s action, yet again, makes plain that the crypto markets suffer from a lack of regulatory compliance, not a lack of regulatory clarity…
As alleged in our complaint, Bittrex and issuers that it worked with knew the rules that applied to them but went to great lengths to evade them by directing issuer-applicants to ‘scrub‘ offering materials of information indicating that certain crypto assets were securities.
Further, Bittrex, as alleged, failed to register and comply with U.S. securities laws as an exchange, broker-dealer, and clearing agency. Cosmetic alterations did nothing to change the underlying economic realities of the offerings and Bittrex’s conduct. Today we’re holding Bittrex accountable for its non-compliance.”
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