The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced that it has charged a former bitcoin-denominated platform and its operator with operating an unregistered securities exchange and defrauding users of that exchange. The SEC also charged the operator with making false and misleading statements in connection with an unregistered offering of securities.
The SEC alleges that BitFunder and its founder Jon E. Montroll operated BitFunder as an unregistered online securities exchange and defrauded exchange users by misappropriating their bitcoins and failing to disclose a cyberattack on BitFunder’s system that resulted in the theft of more than 6,000 bitcoins.The SEC also alleges that Montroll sold unregistered securities that purported to be investments in the exchange and misappropriated funds from that investment as well.
“We allege that BitFunder operated unlawfully as an unregistered securities exchange. Platforms that engage in the activity of a national securities exchange, regardless of whether that activity involves digital assets, tokens, or coins, must register with the SEC or operate pursuant to an exemption. We will continue to focus on these types of platforms to protect investors and ensure compliance with the securities laws,” said Marc Berger, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
“As alleged in the complaint, Montroll defrauded exchange users by misappropriating their bitcoins and failing to disclose a cyberattack on the exchange’s system and the resulting bitcoin theft. We will continue to vigorously police conduct involving distributed ledger technology and ensure that bad actors who commit fraud in this space are held accountable,” said Lara S. Mehraban, Associate Regional Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, charges BitFunder and Montroll with violations of the anti-fraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions and disgorgement plus interest and penalties.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Daphna A. Waxman, Daphne Downes, and Valerie A. Szczepanik in the New York Regional Office. Ms. Waxman and Ms. Szczepanik also are members of the SEC’s Distributed Ledger Working Group and the Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit. The litigation will be led by Dugan Bliss. The case is being supervised by Lara S. Mehraban.
In a parallel criminal case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today filed a complaint against Montroll for perjury and obstruction of justice during the SEC’s investigation.