Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are outright frauds that need to be stopped, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is why it has become hard for regulators to monitor ICOs activities in different jurisdiction because often money raised in ICOs comes from investors in America and other parts of the world.
While speaking at Harvard Law School’s Program on International Financial System, SEC Co-Director for Enforcement Division Steven Peikin noted how the ICO market has exploded from a mere concept to a phenomenon within a short period of time. In 2016, ICOs raised $100 million, while in 2018, they raised $22 billion—a 22,000% increase. The novelty of ICOs, accompanied with the excitement surrounding blockchain technology, has been a key attraction that enterprising people have been using to lure investors, according to Peikin.
The hype and growth of the ICOs can obscure the fact that most of these offering are high-risk investments. At times, the issuers may lack established records of accomplishment. They may also not have viable products business model or proper security measures safeguarding the digital assets from hackers. Without considering all these investors are quick, to pour out their money to projects that eventually fraudulently shut down.
Peikin recalled the case of ICO fraud conducted by Canadian Dominic Lacroix, who defrauded many U.S. investors out of some $15 million by promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month. Lacroix turned out to have had a long history of doing similar financial frauds in Quebec and Canada.
Peikin believes in fighting the fraudulent activities in ICOs and the crypto space there should be global cooperation. He acknowledges collaboration between, the United stated and Canada in Operation Crypto Sweep. The operation was launched in May 2018 by the two countries, which is conducting over 70 investigations into cryptocurrency scams and fraud in ICOs. So far, the North American Securities Administrators Association has sent cease letter to operators of fraudulent crypto companies I more than forty jurisdictions in both countries.
According to Peikin, “The sponsors of ICOs are, in many instances, located outside the United States. And international cooperation is critical to our ability to investigate and, where appropriate, recommend that the Commission bring enforcement action.”
Meanwhile, SEC lawyers recently warned celebrities from endorsing ICOs to avoid being charged with fraud. A few celebrities, such as Floyd Mayweather and Dj Khaled, have already fallen victims to such fraudulent ICOs.
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