BlockFi to Pay $100 Million Over Crypto Lending Platform

On February 14, 2022, the SEC announced charges against BlockFi Lending LLC – a New Jersey-based cryptocurrency lending platform – for failing to register its crypto lending product and violating the Investment Company Act of 1940.  BlockFi agreed to a settlement in which it will pay a $50 million penalty, cease unregistered offers and sales of its lending product, and attempt to bring its business in compliance with the Investment Company Act within sixty (60) days.  Additionally, BlockFi agreed to pay $50 million in fines to 32 states to settle similar charges.

BlockFi offered and sold to investors BlockFi Interest Accounts (“BIAs”), through which investors lent crypto assets to BlockFi and, in exchange, BlockFi promised variable monthly interest payments paid in cryptocurrency.  The SEC’s Order sets forth the Commission’s findings.  First, it concluded that the BIAs were securities because they were notes under Reeves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56 (1990), and because they were sold as investment contracts under SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., 328 U.S. 293 (1946).  Second, the SEC found that BlockFi was engaged in an illegally unregistered securities offering.  Third, it found that BlockFi violated Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act by making materially false and misleading statements concerning its collateral practices and the risks associated with its lending activity.  Finally, the SEC determined that BlockFi was operating as an unregistered investment company.

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