Business

Steve Kaaru

ICO Rating settles with SEC for failing to disclose payments

ICO Rating, a company that provides research and ratings for initial coin offerings (ICOs), has settled with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) for failing to disclose receipt of payments from some of the projects it rated. The Russian company agreed to pay over $260,000 and to cease from committing any violations of the Securities Act.

Established in September 2016, the St. Petersburg-based company provides ratings for companies that were conducting ICOs. On its website, it lays out all the details of the ICOs’ issuer, including the background of the company, the team behind the offering, the features of the token, a breakdown of the whitepaper and how to invest in the ICO. To date, the website lists over 5,000 ICOs, indicating their risk level so that the investors can be best equipped before they invest.

However, according to a press release by the SEC, ICO Rating failed to disclose that it received compensation by some ICO issuers whose offerings it rated. Melissa Hodgman, the associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division explained:

The securities laws require promoters, including both people and entities, to disclose compensation they receive for touting investments so that potential investors are aware they are viewing a paid promotional item. This requirement applies regardless of whether the securities being touted are issued using traditional certificates or on the blockchain.

The regulator further revealed that between December 2017 and July 2018, ICO Rating received $100,572 from certain issuers whose projects it rated. The company didn’t disclose this to investors who used its platform.

ICO Rating agreed to cease and desist from committing any violations, now or in the future. Additionally, the company shall pay disgorgement of $100,572, civil money penalty of $162,000 and prejudgment interest of $6,426.

Earlier this month, the SEC reached a settlement with PlexCorps, an ICO issuer which it had charged with the sale of unregistered securities. The founders of the company agreed to pay $4.5 million for disgorgement and $348,000 in prejudgment interest. The two also agreed to pay $1 million each in civil penalties.

Still in August, the SEC agreed a settlement with SimplyVital Health, a New England-based blockchain startup which it charged with offering an unauthorized ICO. The company agreed to pay the government $6.3 million.

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