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ShapeShift’s Brush with the Law: SEC Settlement for Unregistered Crypto Trading






ShapeShift AG Settles with SEC for Operating as Unregistered Dealer of Crypto Asset Securities

ShapeShift AG Settles with SEC for Operating as Unregistered Dealer of Crypto Asset Securities

ShapeShift AG, a Swiss-incorporated company formerly based in Denver, Colorado, has reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for operating as an unregistered dealer of crypto asset securities. The SEC found that from August 2014 until early 2021, ShapeShift’s online platform allowed users to buy and sell certain crypto assets that were offered and sold as investment contracts, and therefore securities, without registering as a dealer with the Commission.

According to the SEC’s order, ShapeShift’s platform, at its peak, facilitated as many as 20,000 daily transactions and offered at least 79 crypto assets, some of which were securities under the Securities Act. ShapeShift acted as a market-maker, serving as the counterparty to every transaction and generating revenue through the spread on each trade.

The SEC determined that ShapeShift met the criteria for a dealer under Section 3(a)(5)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act and was required to register with the Commission. By failing to do so, ShapeShift violated Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act.

As part of the settlement, ShapeShift agreed to a cease-and-desist order and will pay a civil penalty of $275,000. The company consented to the entry of the order without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, except for the Commission’s jurisdiction over it and the subject matter of the proceedings.

This enforcement action comes amidst the SEC’s increased scrutiny of cryptocurrency platforms and their compliance with securities laws. In recent years, the Commission has brought similar actions against other crypto-related companies for operating as unregistered exchanges or dealers.

The ShapeShift settlement serves as a reminder to crypto businesses that they must carefully consider whether their activities fall under the purview of securities laws and take necessary steps to ensure compliance. As the crypto industry continues to evolve, it is essential for companies to stay informed about regulatory developments and proactively engage with legal counsel to avoid potential enforcement actions.

In January 2021, ShapeShift announced a change in its business model, discontinuing its direct exchange services and no longer acting as a counterparty to customer transactions. Subsequently, on July 14, 2021, the company announced that it was winding down its corporate structure. The SEC order applies only to ShapeShift’s operations as a dealer prior to early 2021 and does not address any other conduct.

As the regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies and digital assets continues to take shape, it is crucial for industry participants to prioritize compliance and work collaboratively with regulators to establish clear guidelines and best practices. By fostering open dialogue and promoting responsible innovation, the crypto community can work towards creating a more stable and sustainable ecosystem that protects investors while supporting the growth of this transformative technology.


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