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(Reuters) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex Inc. and its former CEO William Shihara with operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker and clearing agency.
The SEC alleged in its complaint, which was filed in a U.S. district court in Washington, that Mr. Shihara coordinated with crypto asset issuers seeking to make their tokens available for trading on Bittrex’s platform to delete public statements that Mr. Shihara believed would lead regulators to investigate those token offerings as securities.
The SEC also charged Bittrex’s foreign affiliate, Bittrex Global GmbH, for failing to register as a national securities exchange in connection with its operation of a single shared order book along with Bittrex.
Mr. Shihara and a representative for Bittrex did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Seattle-based Bittrex had previously announced it would shutter its U.S. operations effective April 30 due to “continued regulatory uncertainty.” The company’s non-U.S. operations are based in Liechtenstein.
The SEC’s complaint also alleged that Bittrex from 2017 to 2022 earned at least $1.3 billion in revenues from transaction fees from investors, among other things, while servicing them as a broker, exchange and clearing agency, but failed to register those activities with the SEC.
“Today’s action, yet again, makes plain that the crypto markets suffer from a lack of regulatory compliance, not a lack of regulatory clarity,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement.