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Singapore Halts STO for Regulatory Breach

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Singapore Halts STO for Regulatory Breach

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced on January 24th that it had halted an unnamed security token offering. The MAS stated that it had disqualified the STO from an exemption whereby the issuer could sell its security to accredited investors without registering a prospectus with the authority. The issuer violated the condition of the exemption granted under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) that bars it from advertising the offer.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said in its statement: “The exemption from prospectus registration is however subject to certain conditions, including a requirement not to advertise the offer. The issuer, in this case, failed to comply with the advertising restriction when its legal advisers put out a LinkedIn post accessible to the public calling attention to the offer. As such, the issuer would not be able to rely on the exemption from prospectus registration. Following MAS’s warning, the issuer has suspended its global offering of securities tokens.”

Lee Boon Ngiap, MAS’s Assistant Managing Director (Capital Markets) said, “Where an offer is made to the public, a prospectus is required to ensure that investors are provided with all the information to make informed investment decisions. Some offers may be made without a prospectus if they are limited to a restricted group of persons or to those who have the means to look after their own interests. Such offers are subject to strict conditions such as advertising restrictions. MAS will not hesitate to act if issuers contravene the disclosure requirements under the SFA.”

Within the statement, MAS took the opportunity to remind investors about the highly speculative nature of investing in ICOs and STOs, “Consumers should ensure that they understand the benefits and risks of any product or service before parting with their monies. Specifically for digital token offerings, the risks include a highly speculative valuation, heightened risk of fraud, and lack of a proven track record.”

The MAS further advised investors, “Check on the company, its owners, directors, and management members to assess if the opportunity is genuine. Confirm the company’s and representatives’ credentials by using available resources, including the Financial Institutions Directory, Register of Representatives and Investor Alert List on the MAS website.”

The MAS referred investors to its A Guide to Digital Token Offerings, updated in November 2018, for more information on investing in security tokens.  The Monetary Authority of Singapore is both the country’s central bank and its chief financial regulator.

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Jay Derenthal is a leading cryptocurrency and blockchain writer. He has extensive business development and growth hacking experience, with a particular interest in the tokenization of assets into tradable securities. Jay uses market research to align his reporting with the most exciting trends in the fast-evolving security token news arena.

Regulation

SEC Charges Opporty for 2018 ICO

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SEC Charges Opporty for 2018 ICO

This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continued its ICO crackdown. This time, the firm levied charges against project Opporty Founder and Brooklyn-resident Sergii Grybniak. The firm alleges that Grybniak broke the law when his firm raised approximately $600,000 during its 2018 ICO.

News of the charges first broke via Jan. 21 press release. In the release, the SEC reveals the charges laid against Grybniak in detail. Importantly, the primary charge is participating in the unregistered sale of securities. Additionally, the SEC claims that Grybniak made false statements in order to encourage more investor participation.

These statements include a myriad of exaggerated and completely fake claims. In one instance, Opporty claimed that its 2018 ICO was “100% SEC-compliant.” Unfortunately, this claim proved to be the tip of the iceberg. Apparently, Opporty also claimed to have thousands of “verified providers” who were ready to work with the platform.

Opporty via Homepage

Opporty via Homepage

This claim became so overblown that in one piece of marketing material, Opporty suggested it had a business database that included around 17 million participants. In actuality, the firm had no partnerships. Unfortunately, these claims served one main purpose, to push more investment capital into the ICO.

Major Software Firm

As if the shower of lies put forth weren’t enough, Opporty also made some very specific partnership claims that proved to be bunk as well. According to the SEC, the firm lied about a partnership with a major software company. This lie was to help ease investor doubt about the ability of developers to deliver on their hefty platform promises.

SEC Steps In – Opporty

It doesn’t take much research to see why Opporty ended up in the SEC’s crosshairs. Now, the SEC seeks injunctions against all future digital offerings by the company. On top of the cease-and-desist, regulators require Opporty to return all the funds the company raised during its 2018 ICO. Also, the firm is to face a variety of civil penalties for its actions.

Opporty

Opporty executives sold the concept to investors as a blockchain-based ecosystem for small businesses. The platform was to provide these small-to-medium sized companies with access to advanced blockchain systems. For example, businesses could list their services and lock in their clients via smart contracts.

United States Investors

Aside from the obvious scamming that took place, Opporty made another key error in its strategy. You see, unlike many similar ICOs, the offering did not explicitly exclude U.S. investors from participating. The 2018 ICO included investments from around 200 US citizens. In this way, the firm invited the SEC to monitor its actions throughout its entire crowdfunding campaign.

An Oppurty Lost

Given the long list of violations this firm now faces, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Opporty decides to close its doors. Already, numerous SEC-charged firms have taken similar measures prior to refunding clients’ funds. For now, Opporty has a long legal battle and hefty fines to deal with. You can expect to hear more from this case as the SEC pursues its charges against Grybniak.

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Disguises, Fake Identities, and an Illegal ICO – The SEC Looks to Lay Charges

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Charges Laid

The SEC is hard at work ousting, and holding accountable, those in the world of blockchain that have breached securities laws.  Most recently, the SEC has turned their attention to an ICO hosted by a pair of companies operated by a duo of devious individuals.

The Companies
  • CG Blockchain Inc.
  • BCT Inc.

This pairing of companies was marketed as developing technology to disrupt hedge funds, and the way they operate.

The Ring Leaders
  • Boaz Manor (alias ‘Shaun Macdonald)
  • Edith Pardo (alias ‘Edith Mehler’)

In all endeavours, it is believed that Boaz Manor was at the helm, with Edith Pardo acting as a ‘front-woman’, deflecting attention from Manor’s past.

The Details

In this particular case, the pair of companies, and the aforementioned individuals, are accused of facilitating/hosting a ‘fraudulent and unregistered offering of digital asset securities’.

$30 million worth of these securities were sold to investors, under the guise of a utility token ‘BCT’.  Beyond simply selling illegal securities, those responsible flat out lied to their investors on a variety of fronts.

  • Fake Identities
  • Fake chain of command
  • Product state of development
  • Product Adoption
  • Investments by founders

The list goes on.  Simply put, they were not who they said they were, and the companies did not have a developed product gaining traction within the industry.

Fake Identity

This next bit is not an everyday occurrence – rather, it was something you would see in a movie.  Knowing full well that their activities were in violation of various securities based laws, Manor and Edith Pardo felt it prudent to hide their identities.

In order to do this, and distance themselves from their past activities (more on that, later), the pair went to great lengths.  The SEC states,

“During the scheme, Manor employed a number of deceptive devices related to his fake identity and to the concealment of his background and role.”

Some of the tactics used to conceal their identities included dying hair, growing beards, attaining fake identification under the alias ‘Shaun MacDonald’, etc.

Shady Past

There are few reasons to justify hiding one’s identity in the manner that Manor did – either you’ve done something bad, or are doing something bad.  In this particular case, Manor is guilty of both.

We’ve discussed the illegalities associated with his actions in the aforementioned ICO, however Manor has a history of such activity.  Dating back to 2005 in Canada, Manor was found to be running a fraudulent hedge fund, valued at nearly $750 million.

When light was shed upon his operation, Manor proceeded to flee the great white north, becoming a fugitive in the process.  After eventually returning, and completing a prison sentence of 1 year, Manor went on his way, staying out of the limelight until now.

Commentary

Due to the great lengths gone to by the pair to partake in the aforementioned illegal activities, in addition to the sum of money raised, the SEC is taking a strong stance.  The following is an excerpt from their court filing.

“Unless Defendants are restrained and enjoined, they will again engage in the acts, practices, transactions, and courses of business set forth in this Complaint or in acts, practices, transactions, and courses of business of similar type and object.”

SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission is a United Stated based regulatory body, tasked with creating, an enforcing, regulation surrounding securities.  The goal of which is to foster and maintain a fair, transparent, and efficient market for all participants.

Chairman, Jay Clayton, currently oversees company operations.

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EMURGO Starts New Blockchain Task Force in Uzbekistan

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Uzbekistani Officials work with EMURGO Partnerships

This week, the blockchain arm of Cardano, EMURGO announced the creation of a special task force to assist the Uzbekistani government with security token integration. The newly developed team’s tasks will include researching, developing, and instituting new security token solutions into the market. Additionally, the team will guide Uzbeki officials on the creation of a regulatory framework to support a shift towards digital assets within the country’s financial sector.

News of the new taskforce first emerged via Cardano’s official blog. In the post, the company announced the creation of its new “strategic blockchain task force.” The post took a moment to describe the overall goals of the group. These goals include the development of a legal framework for STOs and security token trading. As such, the team will need to complete its market research in order to determine the best pathway towards providing solutions for the security token market locally.

EMURGO Partnerships

Given the remarkable size and importance of the task at hand, it’s no surprise to learn that EMURGO made important strategic partnerships. To date, the firm works with the government of Uzbekistan’s National Agency of Project Management (NAPM), Infinity Blockchain Holdings and the KOBEA group.

KOBEA – Blockchain Education

Notably, the Korean-based blockchain firm, KOBEA will assist EMURGO in the development of an educational structure. The new blockchain-based courses will be available at universities and community centers in the very near future. This structure is necessary to further the local markets’ access to blockchain professionals.

Ken Kodama - EMURGO Founder

Ken Kodama – EMURGO Founder

Discussing the importance of the partnerships, the CEO of the EMURGO Group, Ken Kodama took a moment to express the “great honor” his firm feels after receiving the official go-ahead with the project. He also explained why Uzbekistan is one of the best places for blockchain development to occur. Notably, he touched on the government’s willingness to push the adoption of new technology. He even stated that “Uzbekistan is more willing than ever to adopt innovation.

Cardano Blockchain

For its part, EMURGO will provide advisory services to the Uzbek government. Additionally, the firm will look into how to best integrate Cardano’s third generation blockchain into infrastructure projects. Blockchain infrastructure projects are on the rise. Despite the unprecedented growth within the sector over the last year, many analysts still see a lack of infrastructure as the main choke point towards full-scale blockchain adoption.

EMURGO and KOBEA

Interestingly, both EMURGO and KOBEA will provide additional insight into the digital asset banking markets. This data, coupled with a new educational initiative across all major Uzbek universities, should provide the country with a treasure trove of highly-trained professionals.

EMURGO

Cardano continues to impress with its 4th generation blockchain’s capabilities. Now, it appears that the firm has caught the attention of more than just your typical crypto investors. Given the sheer magnitude of its latest project, you can expect to see Cardano remain dominant in the crypto space for years to come.

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