The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order halting an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO) that targeted retail investors to fund what it claimed to be the world’s first “decentralized bank,” the regulator announced Tuesday.
According to the SEC’s compliant, Dallas-based AriseBank used social media, a celebrity endorsement, and other wide dissemination tactics to raise what it claims to be US$600 million of its US$1 billion goal in just two months.
“We allege that AriseBank and its principals sought to raise hundreds of millions from investors by misrepresenting the company as a first-of-its-kind decentralized bank offering its own cryptocurrency to be used for a broad range of customer products and services. We sought emergency relief to prevent investors from being victimized by what we allege to be an outright scam,” says Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, in a statement.
The allegations have not been proven. The court approved an emergency asset freeze on AriseBank, and its co-founders. The court also appointed a receiver for the firm and its digital assets, including AriseBank’s holdings of cryptocurrencies.
The SEC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest and penalties, against the firm and its co-founders.
“This is the first time the commission has sought the appointment of a receiver in connection with an ICO fraud. We will use all of our tools and remedies to protect investors from those who engage in fraudulent conduct in the emerging digital securities marketplace,” adds Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division.