Crypto's Biggest ICOs Stay Silent on SEC Subpoenas
The silence is deafening.
After rumors began to fly late last week that the SEC has been sending out subpoenas to initial coin offerings (ICOs), some of the biggest projects to yet utilize the funding mechanism have remained tight-lipped, refraining from public commentary.
CoinDesk has so far reached out to the 14 best-known issuers that have raised $50 million or more through their token sales, asking whether they had received a subpoena or request for information letter. The majority left multiple requests for comment without a reply.
Few attorneys or industry stakeholders are willing to talk on the record about the investigations as well. Although many have said they believe the agency is undertaking a sweep of the industry, one that could be focused on a particular type of token sale.
Only one person has admitted to receiving a subpoena, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who raised $100 million to start crypto hedge fund, Arrington XRP Capital.
That said, over the course of a week, CoinDesk has repeatedly asked each project if they have received subpoenas. Statements, and even the absence of statements, from these issuers can be somewhat illuminating.
Of the 14 projects CoinDesk reached out to, only one directly answered questions regarding SEC subpoenas: Quoine.
A spokesperson for the issuer, which raised $108 million through the sale of its Qash token, said it had not been subject to a subpoena or a request for information.
While Bancor, which raised $153 million selling its BNT tokens, a spokesperson indicated it had "nothing to report" to CoinDesk, suggesting it had not received a subpoena.
And Overstock.com subsidiary tZero, which is still in the midst of its token raise targeting $250 million, confirmed that it is under investigation by the SEC, but did not receive a subpoena.
Instead, tZero said, it was "willingly working" with the SEC.
Kind of comments
Other than that, several issuers responded to CoinDesk with the infamous "no comment" comment.
TenX, which raised $80 million during its token sale, declined to comment via a spokesperson and so did Kik, which raised $98 million in its Kin token sale.
Kik's corporate development director, Tanner Philp, even sidestepped a question during the Blockchain for Business conference in Toronto on the subject, saying regulators are "really trying to wrap their head around this whole ecosystem."
"Kik as well as many others in the ecosystem are trying to be as collaborative as possible throughout this process, and are having active conversations with many people across the globe."
Nabil Naghdy, the COO of Status, which raised $107 million for its Status Network Token, similarly dodged directly answering questions about receiving a subpoena.
Instead, Naghdy said, "When we started with this technology there was more uncertainty than there is today, we had a duty to set high standards and narrow the scope of our offering, i.e. excluding the U.S. There are many projects that don't respect the technology, and a balanced regulatory body can protect consumers while enabling innovation."
Brendan Blumer, CEO of Block.one, whose token sale for EOS is ongoing, with current estimates at $700 million, also said the company's token wasn't offered in the U.S. but did not respond directly about a subpoena.
And high-profile token issuer, Protocol Labs Founder Juan Benet, whose company raised $257 million from its Filecoin token sale, told CoinDesk, "As a policy, we do not comment on legal questions that we have not explicitly decided to comment on beforehand. This is not specific to SEC, it's very broad and comes from our legal team's policies."
And that's it. The rest of the issuers CoinDesk contacted did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Those issuers included: Blockstack, which raised $50 million for its stax token; Opskins, which raised $68 million for its wax token; GameCredits, which raised $53 million for its mobilego token; Polkadot, which raised $145 million for its dot token; Sirin Labs, which raised $157 million for its srn token; and Tezos, which raised $232 million for its tezzie token.
According to Carol Van Cleef, CEO of decentralized technology solutions startup Luminous and a long-time crypto-interested attorney, "Depending upon the nature of subpoena, they may or may not be at liberty to disclose that they received it."
Although, since Arrington's admission, it's clear that not all the SEC subpoenas issued to ICO stakeholders have gag orders attached.
"The choice of whether to disclose a subpoena is a matter of company policy," Van Cleef said, adding:
"Depending upon the circumstances, it may be indicative of sensitive issues, but it also doesn't have to be an indication of issues for concern."
Additional reporting by Marc Hochstein and Bailey Reutzel.
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Protocol Labs.
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