US-based crypto exchange CoinMe has been fined nearly $4 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for offering unregistered securities and making misleading statements about its cryptocurrency token, UpToken (UP).
The SEC alleged that CoinMe, its subsidiary Up Global SEZC, and the CEO of both firms, Neil Bergquist, offered unregistered securities through their initial coin offering (ICO) of UP between October to December 2017.
CoinMe raised $3.6 million through its initial coin offering (ICO) of UP in late 2017, with the aim of expanding its fleet of Bitcoin ATMs. UP holders were promised perks like discounted fees and 1% cashback in UP when using the ATMs.
In 2019, CoinMe switched from using its ATMs to Coinstar’s cash-counting kiosks to facilitate cash-to-crypto transactions. It then shut down all of its ATMs, leaving UP holders high and dry.
The SEC also accused Up Global and Bergquist of falsely claiming that Up Global would limit the supply of UpToken and that CoinMe would need to buy back the asset from investors, thus creating demand and increasing token value. In reality, Up Global and Bergquist secured a significant supply of UpToken before and during the ICO.
Additionally, Up Global and Bergquist reported misleading fundraising amounts, stating that up to $18.9 million had been raised when only $3.7 million in fact was.
Fines and restrictions imposed on involved parties
As a result of the SEC’s order, all three parties must destroy all UpToken in their possession. Up Global and CoinMe will be required to publish a notice of the order and request that other trading platforms remove the token from their services. The two companies must also indefinitely refrain from taking part in any cryptocurrency security offering.
Bergquist must refrain from participating in crypto securities offerings for three years, but he is free to trade other cryptocurrencies on a personal basis.
Each party is also required to pay a fine to the SEC, with Up Global coughing up $3.52 million, CoinMe paying $250,000, and Bergquist paying $150,000. These fines collectively total nearly the amount raised by the UpToken ICO.
Since the SEC’s announcement, the price of UpToken has plummeted, with its market cap falling to around $50,000 and 24-hour trading volumes topping just over $180.