The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged crypto asset trading platform Bittrex and its co-founder and former CEO William Shihara for operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. In a separate charge, Bittrex Global is also facing charges for its operation of a single shared order book with Bittrex.
The SEC has filed four charges of Exchange Act violations against the companies and Shihara in the US District Court Western District of Washington. According to the SEC’s complaint, tokens traded on Bittrex, including OMG, Dash, Algorand, Monolith, Naga, and IHT, are securities. The agency has been criticized in the past for its “regulation by enforcement” approach, which claims tokens are securities only at the time of filing complaints and not before.
The SEC’s charges against Bittrex highlight the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the crypto industry, especially when it comes to determining whether digital assets qualify as securities. The agency has previously filed charges against several companies for unregistered securities trading, including Telegram and Ripple.
Bittrex is not the first cryptocurrency trading platform to face legal action from the SEC. In 2019, the agency took legal action against EtherDelta, a decentralized exchange, for operating an unregistered securities exchange. The SEC has also previously warned investors about the risks associated with investing in cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Bittrex has been a prominent player in the crypto industry since its launch in 2014. The platform currently supports trading in over 300 cryptocurrencies, making it one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world. However, the SEC’s charges against the company and its former CEO could have significant implications for the broader crypto industry, especially when it comes to determining whether certain digital assets qualify as securities.
In response to the SEC’s charges, Bittrex issued a statement saying that it had been in “close communication” with the agency over the past two years and had been “cooperating with them in an effort to address their concerns.” The company also said that it “disagrees” with the SEC’s assessment that certain tokens traded on its platform are securities and plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the charges.
In conclusion, the SEC’s charges against Bittrex and its former CEO highlight the ongoing regulatory uncertainty surrounding the crypto industry. While the agency has taken legal action against several companies for unregistered securities trading, questions remain about how to determine whether certain digital assets qualify as securities. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the broader crypto industry and how it is regulated moving forward.