A pair of cryptocurrency companies have been ordered to offer money back to investors who participated in their initial coin offerings, which should have been registered with federal regulators, marking the latest move in the government’s bid to regulate the often unpredictable and trendy financial market.
The two companies — Paragon Coin and CarrierEQ — came to settlements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and will each have to pay fines of $250,000. In addition to returning funds to investors, the two companies will have to file financial statements and other documents that give prospective investors a window into the health of the business, a first for an ICO case.
“We have made it clear that companies that issue securities through ICOs are required to comply with existing statutes and rules governing the registration of securities,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division said in a statement. “These cases tell those who are considering taking similar actions that we continue to be on the lookout for violations of the federal securities laws with respect to digital assets.”
Paragon, which raised $12 million in a August 2017 ICO, uses blockchain, the de-centralized record keeping technology that is mostly tied to cryptocurrencies, to manage supply chain tracking for the marijuana industry. CarrierEQ, which is also known as Airfox and provides financial services in emerging markets, raised $15 million in an October 2017 ICO.
The SEC orders don’t accuse the firms of fraud, and the companies didn’t admit to or deny the findings in the settlement. The SEC found that the companies’ tokens, the virtual currency used to support the ICOs, should have been registered as securities, or investments that will make returns for investors should the companies be successful.