In 1967, songwriter Tony Joe White penned the now-classic song, A Rainy Night in Georgia, featuring the soulful cry, “Lord, it feels like it’s raining all over the world.” While every aspect of the economy feels under pressure, the cryptocurrency world has been brutally battered recently. Already reeling from a down market, the ecosystem was shaken in May with the spectacular collapse of Luna, at one point valued at $40 billion, and its sister stablecoin TerraUSD. That news was followed by a report in The New York Times suggesting that Tether, the stablecoin widely regarded as the gold standard, may not be so stable. According to the article, the company’s financial statements disclosed that a significant portion of its reserves is invested in unsecured corporate debt, which is riskier than other investments and may be harder to convert to cash. This came on the heels of last year’s $21 million fine imposed by the New York Attorney General’s Office and the $41 million fine paid in October 2021 to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/17/technology/tether-stablecoin-cryptocurrency.html).
Against this backdrop, yesterday, the Department of Justice announced the guilty plea of the CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS) in a $21 million cryptocurrency fraud scheme. According to the Department of Justice’s press release, TBIS failed to register its ICO with the Securities and Exchange Commission. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/ceo-titanium-blockchain-pleads-guilty-21-million-cryptocurrency-fraud-scheme. (For more information regarding the SEC’s position on when cryptocurrencies need to register with the commission, see our blog posts on this subject: https://suarezlawfirm.wordpress.com/2022/07/18/cryptocurrencies-securities-or-commodities-who-will-regulate/ and https://suarezlawfirm.wordpress.com/2022/07/22/sec-and-federal-prosecutors-bring-first-crypto-insider-trading-case/).
While many aspects of the TBIS case appeared to be like traditional financial crimes (fake testimonials, false descriptions of business relationships), news of a significant cryptocurrency fraud scheme on the heels of devastating several months of down markets and bad news serves to only to further batter this relatively nascent ecosystem.