(Bloomberg) -- Bankrupt crypto exchange operator Bittrex Inc. and its non-US affiliate will pay $24 million to settle allegations that they for years shirked Securities and Exchange Commission rules by offering services to US clients without registering with the agency.
The SEC in April alleged that Bittrex acted as an unregistered securities exchange, broker and clearing agency from 2017 through 2022 as it brought in at least $1.3 billion in revenue. At the time, the agency also sued co-founder William Shihara and the global affiliate Bittrex Global GmbH, both of which were part of Thursday’s settlement announcement.
The firms and Shihara didn’t admit or deny the regulator’s allegations. Bittrex Global said in a statement that it was “delighted” to have reached the settlement and that it had been submitted for court approval.
Shihara, who didn’t have to pay a fine, called the settlement plan “a good outcome,” and said he hoped it’d help the US strike a balance between protecting investors and promoting innovation.
Since taking over in 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler has repeatedly argued that most tokens are subject to his agency’s oversight and that swaths of the industry have been breaking the law. In addition to Bittrex, the regulator in recent months has sued other major exchanges such as Coinbase Global Inc. and Binance Holdings Ltd. Both those firms have denied wrongdoing and are fighting the agency in court.
In its April lawsuit against Bittrex, the SEC alleged that the firm and Shihara, who was CEO from 2014 to 2019, coordinated with issuers who wanted to have their assets traded on the platform to first delete “problematic statements” that could draw scrutiny from regulators. Bittrex previously said it planned to fight the case in court and denied that securities or investment contracts were offered or traded on Bittrex.
Bittrex Inc. went bankrupt in May after its US operations were shut down. Bittrex Global has continued to operate for customers outside the US.
(Updates with Bittrex Global statement in third paragraph.)
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