The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday charged crypto platform Bittrex over non-compliance related accusations. The complaint follows a Wells notice in March 2023, after which the crypto exchange announced it was winding up US operations. However, it was only on Sunday that reports revealed about the Wells notice that preceded the exchange’s decision to leave notice. This move adds to the US SEC’s growing list of crypto businesses under its radar.
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In its complaint, the agency also charged Bittrex co-founder William Shihara for operating “an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency.” The SEC also charged Bittrex’s foreign affiliate, Bittrex Global GmbH, for failing to register as a national securities exchange over its operation of a single shared order book along with Bittrex.
Gurbir Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, alleged that Bittrex repeatedly chose profits over investor protection. He added in the complaint that the exchange depended on circumventing registration requirements of the federal securities laws. Interestingly, the agency said it would like to send out a message to other crypto players with this complaint.
“Today’s action not only holds Bittrex accountable for misconduct that we allege put investors at risk, but should also send a message to other non-compliant crypto market intermediaries to follow the federal securities laws or be held accountable for their violations.”
The regulatory agency said CEO Shihara ensured “problematic statements” from public domain are deleted to prevent agencies from probing the aspect of selling crypto assets as securities. The deleted statements included terms like “price prediction” and “expectation of profit” among others, it added.
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