We discussed this case previously in connection with the firm’s CEO,s attempts to avoid service of a subpoena and his refusal to comply. The company not only refused to comply, but it sued the SEC for violation of various statutes. See, What Happens if I Ignore an SEC Subpoena.
Now the case moves forward. On February 16 the SEC charged Terraform Labs PTE Ltd and Do Hyeong Kwon with orchestrating a multi-billion dollar crypto asset securities fraud involving an algorithmic stablecoin and other crypto asset securities. The press release and complaint are at the SEC’s website.
The SEC’s Allegations
The SEC alleges that from April 2018 until the scheme’s collapse in May 2022, Terraform and Kwon raised billions of dollars from investors by offering and selling an inter-connected suite of crypto asset securities, many in unregistered transactions. These included “mAssets,” security-based swaps designed to pay returns by mirroring the price of stocks of US companies, and Terra USD (UST), a crypto asset security referred to as an “algorithmic stablecoin” that supposedly maintained its peg to the U.S. dollar by being interchangeable for another of the defendants’ crypto asset securities, LUNA. The complaint further alleges that Terraform and Kwon offered and sold investors other means to invest in their crypto empire, including the crypto asset security tokens MIR—or “mirror” tokens—and LUNA itself.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Terraform and Kwon marketed crypto asset securities to investors seeking to earn a profit, repeatedly claiming that the tokens would increase in value. For example, they touted and marketed UST as a “yield-bearing” stablecoin, which they advertised as paying as much as 20 percent interest through the Anchor Protocol. The SEC’s complaint also alleges that, while marketing the LUNA token, Terraform and Kwon repeatedly misled and deceived investors that a popular Korean mobile payment application used the Terra blockchain to settle transactions that would accrue value to LUNA. Meanwhile, Terraform and Kwon also allegedly misled investors about the stability of UST. In May 2022, UST depegged from the U.S. dollar, and the price of it and its sister tokens plummeted to close to zero.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges the defendants with violating the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act.
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Mark Astarita is a nationally recognized securities attorney, who represents investors, financial professionals and firms in securities litigation, arbitration and regulatory matters, including SEC and FINRA investigations and enforcement proceedings.
He is a partner in the national securities law firm Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC, and the founder of The Securities Law Home Page - SECLaw.com, which was one of the first legal topic sites on the Internet. It went online in 1995 and is updated daily with news, commentary and securities law related links.