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The SEC Sues Bittrex for Operating Unregulated Securities Exchange

by Tony Mormile

Bittrex is being accused of offering securities without being registered to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • The SEC is suing Bittrex and its former CEO, William Shihara.
  • The agency is accusing Bittrex of operating an unregulated securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency.
  • The SEC also claimed that Bittrex instructed crypto projects seeking enlistment to scrub public statements they'd previously made which could bring the attention of regulatory agencies.

The SEC’s war on crypto rages on. The regulator filed civil charges today against Bittrex for operating as a national securities exchange without being properly registered.

Scrubbing Problematic Statements

Yet another crypto company has fallen prey to the SEC’s predatory eye.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it was charging crypto exchange Bittrex and former CEO William Shihara for allegedly operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. The SEC is also suing Bittrex foreign affiliate, Bittrex Global, for failing to register as a national securities exchange.

The SEC claimed in its complaint that Bittrex facilitated the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies which the agency believes to be securities—including OMG, DASH, ALGO, TKN, NGC, and IHT. 

According to the SEC, Bittrex and Shihara instructed the teams behind these cryptocurrencies to scrub “problematic statements” they’d publicly made in the past which they believed could bring the attention of a regulatory agency—such as the SEC itself. Price predictions, expectations of profit, and other investment-related terms were ordered for deletion before the assets could be listed on Bittrex. 

“Today’s action, yet again, makes plain that the crypto markets suffer from a lack of regulatory compliance, not a lack of regulatory clarity,” stated SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “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.”

Bittrex Global responded to the civil lawsuit by claiming that it never served any U.S. customers and had “taken pains” to forbid U.S. residents from using the exchange. It also criticized the SEC for not seeking to engage with the company before suing. “Bittrex Global was willing to work productively with the SEC—as we do with all regulators—to explain our position. It has become clear that the SEC is not interested in such discussions.”

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned BTC, ETH, and other crypto assets.

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