The SEC Office of Compliance and Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) has released new examination priorities for 2020 covering digital assets and digital currencies.
The OCIE report states that advancements in financial technologies and methods of capital formation are growing rapidly, which poses new risks to retail investors and institutional investors alike.
The report reads:
“The digital assets market has grown rapidly and presents various risks, including for retail investors who may not adequately understand the differences between these assets and more traditional products.”
According to the report, the OCIE will monitor the risks associated with investment suitability, digital asset pricing and valuation, trading practices, the safety of client funds, and more throughout 2020.
Interestingly, the report makes no specific mention of initial coin offerings (ICOs), which have long been the focus of the SEC’s scrutiny in the digital asset space.
The omission of ICOs is telling of the evolution of the digital asset space, which has seen a marked decrease in the number of ICO sales since the market boom and bust of 2017/18.
The report also states that the OCIE will be identifying and examining “SEC-registered market participants” who are engaged in the digital asset space, presumably to ensure that all new offerings, even those from institutions, comply with regulations.
A busy year for the SEC
The SEC had a busy year in 2019, bringing several high-profile rulings against crypto Ponzi schemes, scammers, and fraudsters – many of whom were associated with ICO sales.
In December 2019, the SEC lobbied US courts to reopen the case against British scammer Renwick Haddow, who defrauded investors for over $37 million through a Ponzi ICO.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that the SEC had reached a settlement with infamous Longfin CEO Venkata Meenavalli, who sold $33 million worth of stocks after declaring his newly listed Nasdaq company would be acquiring a cryptocurrency company.
Also ongoing throughout much of 2019 and into 2020 has been struggles with messaging service Telegram, which is facing SEC scrutiny for a $1.7 billion unregistered ICO sale.
Other focus areas for the SEC in 2019 included a motion to redefine the classification of ‘accredited investors’ in a bid to protect digital asset investors participating in token generation events.
The SEC’s reiteration of its examination priorities for 2020 proves that digital assets are still very much part of the SEC’s focus and regulatory agenda, despite the strides the blockchain community has taken to fall in line with regulation.