The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have charged both Abra and Plutus Technologies for swapping securities and selling unregistered shares to retail customers. Both companies have agreed to settle the charges and pay fees of more than $150,000 each to clear their names.
Abra Agrees to Settle
In a statement, Daniel Michael – chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit – explained:
Businesses cannot ignore the registration requirements designed to provide investors with the information necessary to evaluate securities transactions. Further, businesses that structure and effect security-based swaps may not evade the federal securities laws merely by transacting primarily with non-U.S. retail investors and setting up a foreign entity to act as a counterparty while conducting crucial parts of their business in the United States.
Abra is a crypto fintech wallet that holds shares in Plutus, a company based in the Philippines. Plutus was largely responsible for the sale of the security swaps to customers. However, as Abra is based in America, selling these swaps through a foreign exchange is considered unlawful under present SEC and CFTC guidelines, which invoked the penalties on both entities.
CFTC director of enforcement James McDonald explained through a press release:
This case underscores, once again, that the Commission will continue working with our regulatory partners to ensure the integrity of our markets, including those involving digital assets. Rooting our misconduct is essential to furthering the responsible development of these innovative financial products.
Problems initially began for Abra in 2019 when it offered people U.S. based stocks without providing stock shares themselves. Done through a process known as “synthetic exposure,” individuals would purchase stock shares in a U.S.-based company and receive digital assets in their place, so if a person purchased $500 in Tesla, for example, through an Abra-based contract, they would ultimately receive $500 in BTC instead. The investment would go up or down depending on which direction Tesla shares moved.
You Always Have to Register!
The SEC claims that this is a security-swap program and cannot be offered to U.S. based customers. In addition, only individuals with at least $5 million in holdings can participate. The operation has since been shut down in America and is available only to foreign customers. To account for present regulations, Abra says it will be moving part of its business over to the Philippines.
In the meantime, Bill Barhydt – the founder of Abra – announced in a tweet that the company is “doing well” and that it is earning positive feedback from customers. In addition, he has stated that the present situation is not a lawsuit brought forth by the SEC, and that the circumstances involved will not be discussed any further. The company has also received $5 million from the Stellar Development Foundation which Abra will use to further enhance its financial services.