SEC files first action against dubious 'initial coin offering'

SEC's cyber unit charges Canadian firm with coin offering fraud

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed and obtained an emergency action against PlexCorps, a Canadian company promoting an Initial Coin Offering, or ICO.

According to Reuters, the SEC also said that it had obtained an emergency order to stop the ICO and freeze assets so they could attempt to refund investors.

PlexCorp also attempted to fraudulently hide Lacroix's involvement in the business because of his "status as a recidivist securities law violator in Canada", the complaint said. "Lacroix and PlexCorps marketed and sold securities called PlexCoin on the internet to investors in the USA and elsewhere, claiming that investments in PlexCoin would yield a 1,354 percent profit in less than 29 days", the SEC said".

Lacroix and PlexCorps were also charged with violating the requirement to register all securities offerings with the SEC.

The move by the SEC underlined its new commitment toward rooting out schemes in ICOs. During an ICO, companies aim to attract investors to back new digital currencies by releasing their own coins or tokens in exchange for cash or Bitcoin. The alleged scam promised its investors a highly unrealistic 13-fold return on investment in less than a month.

The unit was created in September to focus on misconduct involving distributed ledger technology and initial coin offerings, the spread of false information through electronic and social media, hacking and threats to trading platforms.

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Initial coin offering don't typically offer equity in a company issuing them.

The Cyber Unit, according to the SEC, was created with the goal of sniffing out nefarious activity in the crypto and initial coin offering space.

The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction, a judgement ordering the defendants to disgorge the profits with interest and to pay financial penalties, the agency said. The charges are the result of regulatory collaboration with the Autorité Des Marchés Financiers (AMF).

"This first Cyber Unit case hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam and is exactly the kind of misconduct the unit will be pursuing", Robert Cohen, Chief of the SEC's Cyber Unit, said in a statement.

But Lacroix and Paradis-Royer deny the allegations. Lacroix proceeded with the offering despite being enjoined by Quebec securities regulators and has "misappropriated or attempted to misappropriate at least $200,000 ... on extravagant personal expenditures", the commission said.

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