On August 7th, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities (The Bureau) issued multiple ‘Cease and Desist’ orders, on behalf of themselves and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).
These actions took place as part of an effort dubbed by the regulatory bodies as ‘Operation Cryptosweep’. The companies which were on the receiving end of these orders were a pairing of New Jersey based outfits – Zoptax and UNOcall.
The pairing are accused of issuing fraudulent digital securities under the guise of utility tokens through an ICO.
This company indicated that they utilize a decentralized network to facilitate private voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) calls.
Their accompanying ICO was originally expected to raise upwards of $3.4 million USD. The Bureau indicates that, not only do the tokens meet the framework of a security, but they were not registered with authorities. Furthermore, the company was found to make various misleading statements on their website.
CEO and Founder, Rao Naveed, oversees company operations.
UNOcall touts their product as a ‘secure coin and payment platform’, based on blockchain technologies.
Much like Zoptax, UNOcall was found to be displaying misleading statements on their site, containing guarantees on investment returns. This ICO and accompanying tokens were also not registered with authorities.
Founder, Oggan Sarfuddin, oversees company operations.
Upon announcing the distribution of multiple cease and desist orders, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, Paul R. Rodriguez, took the opportunity to warn investors. He stated,
“The Bureau’s actions today, and the actions taken by other securities regulators during ‘Operation Cryptosweep,’ are a reminder to investors that while not every initial coin offering or cryptocurrency-related investment is fraudulent, there are significant risks involved with these products…Investors must be on alert and not be tempted to invest in cryptocurrency-related investments without first vigorously vetting any transaction.”
Bureau Chief, Christopher Gerold, elaborated on his colleagues statement, stating,
“With the price of Bitcoin increasing over the last few months and the announcement of Facebook’s Libra, there has been a sharp increase in public solicitations to invest in crypto-related products that appear on their face to be suspect…The two actions today are a reminder to investors that investing in cryptocurrencies or crypto-related products have significant risks and investors must do their diligence before investing.”
New Jersey Bureau of Securities
This regulatory body operates out of the state of New Jersey, and is tasked with ensuring fair and transparent business practices. They achieve this through the enforcement of various regulations, applicable to investment vehicles such as digital assets.
Bureau Chief, Christopher Gerold, who also resides as the President of the NASAA, recently announced the release of an educational video. This video discusses commonly used tactics by fraudulent companies, such as those discussed here today. Check out the video HERE.
Those that follow the world of blockchain will note that these companies are not the first to be accused of fraud, and to receive cease and desists orders. Since the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies really began to boom, in 2017, there have been various examples of this. The following are a few of the more recent companies to face the wrath of regulatory bodies due to their ICOs.
CoinList Founder Andy Bromberg Discusses Security Token Trends
The security token sector continues to be a hot button issue amongst the crypto community. This month, CoinList founder Andy Bromberg took some time to discuss the importance of these tokens, and how the coming months might play out. Unexpectedly, Bromberg had mixed feelings on the market’s trajectory.
In a recent interview, Bromberg pointed out some of the major issues facing the security token sector. He believes that the lack of clear regulations is the main factor deterring large scale adoption. Businesses are still unsure of what to think of this new crowdfunding strategy. The lack of transparency from regulators leaves many potential blockchain investors with unanswered questions.
Recognizing the need for more clarity in the space, the SEC issued multiple statements this year. These posts are an attempt by the SEC to help business owners understand the classifications of each type of token, and what regulations it falls under. Most recently, the SEC released a full guidance that covers each token class in detail.
STO Regulations Evolve
When STOs first emerged, many businesses saw these tokens as a cheaper and quicker alternative to traditional securities. At that time, the market lacked any regulatory structure. Businesses were able to issue tokens at will.
Nowadays this is no longer the case. The SEC recently stepped into the space in a major way. As a result, numerous businesses faced backlash for issuing securities illegally. Consequently, the STO market slowed until recently.
It Takes Time
When asked about the markets adoption rate, Bromberg was quick to let people know there is still a lot of time before STOs make it to the mainstream. The savvy crypto advocate noted that it could be years still until STOs gain enough traction to become a major crowdfunding strategy.
CoinList entered the market in 2017 with the goal of providing financial services to next-gen tech firms. The company has headquarters in New York and offices in San Francisco. Notably, the firm has fewer than 50 employees according to Crunchbase.
CoinList offers clients advisory services regarding blockchain-based investment strategies. As the President of CoinList, Bromberg is uniquely positioned to understand the sector’s demands. His company hears the concerns of both investors and service providers. Discussing the issues, Bromberg described how there is little incentive for companies to make the shift to the crypto ecosystem at this time.
Bromberg feels that in order for companies to have confidence in these new systems, there needs to be a clear legal framework that doesn’t detract from the advantages of blockchain technology. Basically, legislators need to fully understand the advantages of blockchain technology in order to structure regulations that enable the tech to function at peak performance levels.
CoinList STOs – A Bumpy Road Ahead
The overall tone of Bromberg is one of a man who fully understands the complicated scenarios that play out in the cryptospace. His ability to point out these shortcomings is sure to help CoinList remain a dominant player in the future.
Polymath Partners with QRC Group- Eyes Asian Markets
Asian companies looking to host an STO in the future just got a powerful alley. The token issuance platform Polymath announced a strategic partnership with one of Asia’s most successful STO consulting firms – the QRC Group. The partnership strengthens Polymath’s presence in the region. Also, it provides future STOs with the added guidance needed to make their crowdfunding campaigns a success.
News of the strategic partnership first broke via a Polymath blog post. In the post, the firm discusses Polymath’s goal to make token issuance as easy as possible. Notably, providing companies access to valuable third-parties is an integral part of Polymath’s all-inclusive strategy.
The QRC Group has an excellent reputation as an established STO advisory in the Asian marketplace. This Hong Kong-based firm provides companies with a plethora of STO-related services such as turnkey issuance. Additionally, QRC provides end-to-end solutions for STOs, including access to regulated secondary market trading.
Speaking on the developments, the CEO of the QRC Group, Shoga Ishida described the partnership as an “important milestone” for his firm. Ishida pointed out Polymath’s ideal position in the market. He then explained how QRC plans to help businesses seeking more guidance. According to the post, QRC will offer consultation in:
- Token issuance
- Technical infrastructure
Currently, QRC hosts a variety of blockchain-related programs. These run the full scope of the sector ranging from production and investment services, all the way to identity verification platforms. Additionally, the company has a native multi-currency STO wallet capable of storing over a thousand different tokens in the works.
Notably, QRC continues to push for international STO standards for the Asian and Southeast Asian markets. Asia plays a huge role in the crypto market. QRC believes that standards are needed in order for the STO market to reach its full potential in the region. Importantly, businesses need this regulatory framework in place before considering STOs to be an attractive alternative to the status quo.
The QRC Group currently works with multiple universities including Taiwan Tech and the University of Malaya. These programs study the effects of blockchain technology, and how it relates to the digitization of the global markets.
Polymath on QRC Group Services
Polymath’s Head of Tokenization, Graeme Moore also took a moment to describe why the QRC Group was the perfect addition to the Polymath ecosystem. He explained why connecting high-quality service providers with valuable business resources, is critical for the developing STO space.
Polymath continues to expand its network. The firm made headlines numerous times this year including in June when it partnered with Ethereum co-founder, Charles Hoskinson on the Polymesh project. Polymesh is a separate blockchain designed specifically for compliant tokens.
Polymath – STO Pioneers
Polymath’s expanding network is just one example of how STO providers plan to bridge the knowledge gap between businesses interested in hosting STOs, and providers of these services. The addition of the QRC Group provides the network with a host of valuable resources. You can expect to see these services play a major role in Polymath’s future token issuances.
BaFin Approves Germany based STO Platform by Black Manta Capital
In a process that took roughly 9 months, Luxembourg based, Black Manta Capital, was awarded licensure to operate an STO platform within Germany. This licensure was provided by regulatory body, BaFin.
This development moves the company one step toward their self-described mission of setting “a global standard for Security Token Offerings (STO).”
In their release, the company hinted towards a launch date, stating,
“The operative start of the investment platform with the first Token Offerings is planned for early Q4/2019.”
The approval received allows for Black Manta Capital to offer clients services surrounding security token offerings. Black Manta Capital has indicated that they intend for this platform to function as a comprehensive offering – meaning that they will provide clients all the necessary services from start to finish, through the tokenization process.
The act of tokenization involves selling, creating, and distributing digital securities which represent ownership of a variety of assets. These assets may range from cars, to art, to equity within a company, and anything in between. As these digital assets are securities, their creation and distribution is only possible when adhering to laws enforced by typical regulatory bodies, such as BaFin.
The STO platform to be offered by Black Manta Capital is expected to face stiff competition, as Europe is quickly becoming a hot bed for companies with similar ambitions. The following are a few of those expected to fit this role.
Upon making their announcement, Managing Partner of Black Manta Capital, Christian Platzer, took the time to comment. The following is what he had to say on the matter.
“Tokenization in the core financial field of securities will – for sure – bring paradigmatic change to the global financial markets.” – “While Black Manta Capital Partners want to be ‘boutique’ in its beginnings and run ‘handpicked’ STOs only, our strategy is global from day one: the first step is to link Europe and Asia on one blockchain-based investment platform. Therefore we look already today into Singapore.”
Black Manta Capital
Black Manta Capital is a young company which specializes in tokenization services. Operating out of Luxembourg since 2018, the company has plans for eventual expansion across various continents.
Managing Partners, Christian Platzer and Alexander Rapatz, currently oversee company operations.
BaFin is a leading financial supervising authority across Europe. With over 2,600 employees, this regulatory body oversees a variety of industries ranging from finance, to banking, insurance, and more.
The organization has been operational since being founded in 2002.
In Other News
Today’s announcement is not the first time that BaFin has provided licencing to outfits partaking in the digital securities sector. The following articles demonstrate a pair of other companies that have also been successful in this respect.