A ruling in the Eastern District of New York sparked controversies in the crypto world as it was the very first time a federal court had weighed in on the SEC’s jurisdiction over ICOs in a criminal case. The SEC has long been cautious in regards to the new funding method of initial coin offering, claiming that most (except Bitcoin and Ether) ICO tokens fall into the definition of securities, therefore, shall be regulated by the Security Act. Despite the SEC’s firm standing on this issue, not much law enforcing actions were taken by the authorities, therefore, the ICO industry continues booming and raised around $12 billion from January through the end of June this year. However, Judge Raymond Dearie of the Eastern District Court’s ruling might just change everything.
The crime case involves Brooklyn businessman Maksim Zaslavskiy, who was charged with conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud for allegedly defrauding investors in two ICO projects. Mr. Zaslavskiy runs two crypto companies – REcoin Group Foundation, LLC and DRC Work, Inc. and offered investors ICO tokens backed by assets like real estate and diamonds. However, these assets were nowhere to be found and investors were not given any new digital tokens after making investments. In Judge Dearie’s ruling against Mr. Zaslavskiy, the court said that sufficient facts showed that the defendant’s ICOs were investment contracts that fall into the Howey Test, and shall be regulated by the SEC under the Security Act.
Although the jury will make the final decision, Judge Dearie’s ruling will nonetheless empower the SEC to take on an even more active and rigorous role in regulating “security” tokens. In return, the SEC should be able to provide more definitive guidance in regards to ICO tokens functioning like secruities. A more definitive guidance is what the crypto industry needs and will potentially tone down the significant numbers of ICO scams.