The US Securities and Exchange Commission has announced charges against Justin Sun and three of his wholly owned companies, Tron Foundation, BitTorrent Foundation, and Rainberry (formerly BitTorrent), for the unregistered offer and sale of crypto asset securities Tronix (TRX) and BitTorrent (BTT), and "fraudulently manipulating the secondary market for TRX through extensive wash trading."
According to the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, Tron Foundation employees conducted at least 600,000 wash trades of TRX from April 2018 through February 2019 to artificially inflate TRX's trading volume, with between 4.5 million and 7.4 million TRX wash traded daily. It also alleges that Sun also sold TRX into the secondary market, generating proceeds of $31 million from illegal, unregistered offers and sales of the token.
The news sent TRX's value tumbling - the token now sits at US$0.062, or 7.39% down in 24 hours, after recovering slightly. HT, the token of Huobi, another company led by Sun, is 9.31% down in 24 hours to US$3.66. JST and SUN, two other Justin Sun related tokens, are similarly down by about 5%.
Eight celebrities, which include actress Lindsay Lohan, social media personality Jake Paul, rappers Ne-Yo and Akon, adult actress Kendra Lust and others, were also charged for illegal touting of TRX and BTT. "Sun himself arranged the payments to celebrities and knew those payments were not disclosed," the SEC said.
The celebrities involved (excluding Soulja Boy and Austin Mahone) agreed to pay a total of more than $400,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle the charges, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, SEC said.
Related: Crypto Influencers & “DYOR” – Is it a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?
"Sun and others used an age-old playbook to mislead and harm investors by first offering securities without complying with registration and disclosure requirements and then manipulating the market for those very securities. At the same time, Sun paid celebrities with millions of social media followers to tout the unregistered offerings, while specifically directing that they not disclose their compensation. This is the very conduct that the federal securities laws were designed to protect against regardless of the labels Sun and others used," Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said.
Related: Celebs Including Bieber, Snoop Dogg Sued With Yuga Labs for BAYC Shills
Calling the charges a "civil complaint," Sun said it is "just the latest example of actions it has taken against well known players in the blockchain and crypto space" and that it "lacks merit."
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