SEC Settles Securities Registration Charges Against 2 ICO Startups

The SEC has settled charges with crypto startups Airfox and Paragon for securities law violations.

Nov 16, 2018 at 3:57 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:36 a.m. UTC

UPDATE 11/20/18 15:45 UTC: Airfox said in an email that it will allow certain investors in its ICO to reclaim funds, plus interest. Investors can can find more information online.


Two cryptocurrency startups have agreed to register their initial coin offering (ICO) tokens as securities after settling charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC's Friday announcement centered on two firms: CarrierEQ Inc., also known as Airfox, and Paragon Coin Inc., both of which conducted token sales last year. Airfox raised $15 million through its sale, while Paragon raised $12 million, according to statements.

The U.S. securities regulator contended that neither startup registered their ICOs as securities offerings, and neither qualified for registration exemptions. In addition to registering their tokens as securities, both companies will refund investors, file periodic reports to the SEC and pay $250,000 apiece in penalties.

The SEC's statement noted that these two cases are the SEC's "first cases imposing civil penalties solely for ICO securities offering registration violations."

SEC Enforcement Division co-director Stephanie Avakian said that the agency has "made it clear that companies that issue securities through ICOs are required to comply with existing statutes and rules governing the registration of securities."

She added:

"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."

The release further referenced the Munchee ICO, which the regulator halted last December. Like Airfox and Paragon, Munchee agreed to refund investors in its $15 million token sale, though the SEC did not impose additional fines at the time.

Friday's announcement comes on the heels of the SEC revealing settled charges against Zachary Coburn, founder of the decentralized exchange EtherDelta, with running an unregistered securities exchange.

At the time, an individual familiar with the SEC's thinking noted that the regulator is likely to focus increasingly on token trading platforms.

SEC emblem image via Shutterstock

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