Da Vinci Capital filed the lawsuit against instant messaging company Telegram, claiming to have lost over $70 million in the project.
Da Vinci Capital reportedly sent a letter before claim to the CEO of Telegram, Pavel Durov, suggesting the fund would raise legal action against Telegram and TON Inc. over the project.
The amount collected in 2020 represents a new record high for the agency, underlining the need for ongoing regulation and enforcement of ICOs and other token transactions.
The SEC commenced enforcement proceedings against some 715 entities over the report period, covering the full range of securities offenses, including market manipulation, unregistered offerings and insider trading.
Of the funds collected so far, the regulator said it has paid out $600 million directly to the victims of those subjected to the fines.
Illegal token sales accounted for a total of $1.26 billion in fines across eight different projects over the period, including Telegram, Kik, Bitclave, Shopin, NAC Foundation, Unikrn, Boon Tech, and Bitcoiin2Gen.
The most significant contributor to the fines, the Telegram ICO raised $1.7 billion from the sale of proprietary Gram tokens to accredited investors. The project attracted the glare of the SEC, resulting in legal action against Telegram for an unregistered securities offering, which eventually led to the project’s downfall.
The report also highlights the success of the regulator’s whistleblower scheme, which offers rewards for individuals identifying breaches of regulations. Over the period, $175 million was paid in rewards across 39 individual whistleblowers, according to the report.
See also: U.S. Rep. Darren Soto’s keynote talk at CoinGeek Live on Balancing Innovation & Regulation for Growth of Blockchain Technology
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In its annual report for 2020, the SEC said its enforcement arm had collected some $4.68 billion in penalties, up 8% from $4.3 billion in 2019.
Telegram first sued Lantah, LLC in 2018, claiming common law trademark infringement and unfair competition over Gram token.
Florida-based Lantah claimed to have formed months before Telegram’s blockchain efforts began and that it intended to issue its own GRAM tokens.
Durov denied the rumors on his Telegram channel, stating, “We are not selling Telegram – neither in part, nor in full. This will always be our position.”
He revealed that he has been under pressure to sell Telegram for years to specific investors who are aligned to their governments. This is a struggle many global tech companies go through, he claimed, citing Uber’s sale of local operations in China and Russia to local investors.
“I am proud that, unlike Uber, we at Telegram have always declined offers to sell our operations in specific countries.”
This isn’t the first time that the Russian government has pressured Durov to sell a company he founded. In 2012, he came under intense pressure to sell his stake in VKontakte, a social media company he had founded. Just as with Telegram, he came at odds with the Russian government after he refused to allow it to access user details. He was eventually forced out, with Mail.ru buying his stake to become the sole owner.
In his Telegram post, Durov also attacked the Trump administration for its stance against video-sharing social media app TikTok. The U.S. government has fought TikTok fiercely, claiming its close ties to the Chinese government make it a security threat to the United States.
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Founder and CEO Pavel Durov has denied reports that he’s in talks with a Russian tech company to offload the embattled Telegram.
Telegram and Kik both used the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens structure to raise capital for the development of their tokens.
Although the Telegram team will be taking their testnet validators offline on August 1, the TON blockchain testnet will still be available.
A final judgment filed shows that the SEC and Telegram have reached terms of settlement over Telegram’s illegal securities sale.
The federal assembly had proposed the lifting of the ban for distribution of COVID-19 info in Russia, but another ministry is opposing it.