The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in its latest report revealed that the number of enforcement actions filed in the fiscal year 2023 (FY2023) increased by three percent from the previous record in the financial year of 2022.
Some of the enforcement actions involved heavyweights in the crypto industry, with various accusations against cryptocurrency businesses and executives ranging from fraud to securities violations.
Nearly $1 Billion Distributed to Harmed Investors
The SEC’s enforcement actions in FY 2023 rose to 784 from 760 in the previous fiscal year, with the Commission obtaining $4,949 billion in financial remedies. A bulk of the amount – approximately $3.4 billion – comprised disgorgement and prejudgment interest, while civil penalties were worth $1,580 billion.
According to the SEC, the financial remedies ordered in FY 2023 were the second highest in the agency’s history, after the regulator recorded its highest-ever financial remedies at over $6 billion in the previous fiscal year.
Furthermore, the Commission distributed $930 million to affected investors, making it the second consecutive year that the agency has distributed over $900 million.
Whistleblower awards also saw an uptick within the reporting period, with $600 million awarded in one year, with one receiving about $279 million, the largest reward awarded to a single individual in the history of the SEC’s program.
SEC Went Hard on the Crypto Industry in FY 2023
While the SEC announced charges against and settlement with top financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Scotia Capital, Goldman Sachs, Citadel Securities, and HSBC, the American regulatory watchdog doubled down on its enforcement actions against the crypto industry.
The SEC filed charges against top crypto entities and individuals, alleging fraud, securities violations, and unregistered operations. Some of the high-profile cases included FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, along with other top executives of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange, and Terraform Labs and its founder, Do Kwon.
Also, the SEC accused Richard Heart and his three entities – Hex, PulseChain, PulseX – of fraud and unregistered securities sale. Other crypto businesses that were charged with unregistered securities offerings include Kraken, Celsius, and Nexo. While Kraken settled with the SEC to pay $30 million disgorgement, civil penalty, and prejudgment interest, Nexo paid a civil penalty worth $22.5 million.
In June, the Commission slammed lawsuits against industry heavyweights Binance and its CEO Changpeng Zhao, along with Coinbase, with both entities denying the charges and seeking to dismiss the SEC’s lawsuit.
The report further mentioned cases of alleged unlawful touting of cryptocurrency asset securities by celebrities who did not disclose that they were paid to make such promotions. Celebrities who settled with the regulator include Shaffer Smith, popularly known as Ne-Yo, Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul, Akon, and Soulja Boy.
However, notably absent from the SEC report is the regulator’s initial loss in its court case against Ripple, where the presiding judge ruled that secondary sales of XRP did not constitute an offer of investment contracts or securities.