This week, on the same day, two United States regulating bodies — the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and its ruling organization the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) — reported filing objections against non-compliant crypto players who made some false statements regarding their businesses.
While the SEC barely needs any introduction for those who follow the crypto industry, FINRA might seem unfamiliar. FINRA is a private, non-federal agency, although it is overseen by the SEC. It regulates one specific part of the securities industry in the U.S.: brokerage firms doing business with the public.
What makes the news particularly interesting is that both agencies seemingly extended their purviews, as FINRA targeted a questionable crypto security and the SEC turned its attention to funds managing virtual currencies. And as the icing on the cake, a New York federal judge ruled that U.S. securities laws were applicable for dealing with crypto fraud allegations — all on the same day, Sept. 11.
FINRA has filed a complaint against a Massachusetts resident Timothy Tilton Ayre. The watchdog charged him with securities fraud and the illegal distribution of an unregistered cryptocurrency called HempCoin (HMP) (not to be confused with the company of the same name that trades THC tokens).
Here’s brief background: In April 2016, Ayre started advertising HMP as “the first minable coin backed by marketable securities” and a security backed by common stock, arguing that every 10 coins represented one share of his public company Rocky Mountain Ayre Inc. (RMTN).
Ayre’s HempCoins premiered on exchanges C-Cex and Yobit. More than than 81 million HMP coins were mined in late 2017 and traded on the aforementioned platforms. Currently, HMP is not listed at any exchange and its market cap totals a modest $104,463, according to CoinMarketCap. Ayre’s cryptocurrency has also seemingly erased all of its social media presence, while its former website reroutes to some unrelated content.
Thus, in the recent complaint, FINRA states that Ayre’s claims were “fraudulent, positive statements about RMTN’s business and finances.” As Ayre never attempted to register the coin, FINRA chose to charge the RMTN president with the unlawful distribution of an unregistered security.
In the press release, FINRA reminded that anyone named in its complaint can file a response and request a hearing. If the agency confirms there were violations, Ayre might face a fine, censure, suspension or be barred from the securities industry altogether.