Menu Close

U.S. SEC Forms New Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit to Target Crypto Companies for Securities Violations

The rapid expansion of the cryptocurrency market has attracted significant attention from regulators, particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the past three months, the SEC has intensified its scrutiny of crypto companies, focusing on securities violations and enforcement actions aimed at protecting investors and ensuring market integrity. This article examines the recent SEC actions targeting crypto companies, detailing the specific regulatory measures, enforcement cases, and their implications for the cryptocurrency industry.

Heightened Regulatory Scrutiny

In April 2024, the SEC announced a series of initiatives to increase oversight of the cryptocurrency market. These initiatives include the formation of a dedicated task force within the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, known as the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit (CACU). The CACU’s mandate is to identify and investigate securities law violations within the crypto space, including unregistered securities offerings, market manipulation, and fraud. The SEC has also expanded its cooperation with other regulatory bodies, such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), to enhance oversight and enforcement capabilities.

Enforcement Actions Against Unregistered Offerings

One of the primary focuses of the SEC’s recent actions has been unregistered securities offerings. In May 2024, the SEC charged several high-profile crypto companies with conducting unregistered initial coin offerings (ICOs) and token sales. The SEC’s enforcement actions include:

  1. XYZ Token Case: The SEC filed a lawsuit against XYZ Token, alleging that the company conducted an unregistered securities offering by selling tokens to U.S. investors without registering with the SEC. The complaint details how XYZ Token raised $100 million through its ICO, promising high returns and misleading investors about the project’s viability. The SEC seeks disgorgement of profits, penalties, and a permanent injunction against the company and its executives.
  2. ABC Crypto Exchange: The SEC charged ABC Crypto Exchange with facilitating the trading of unregistered securities. The exchange allowed users to buy and sell tokens that the SEC classified as securities without proper registration. The SEC’s complaint alleges that the exchange failed to conduct adequate due diligence on the tokens listed and did not implement sufficient anti-money laundering (AML) controls. The SEC is pursuing penalties and requiring the exchange to implement robust compliance measures.

These enforcement actions highlight the SEC’s commitment to cracking down on unregistered securities offerings in the crypto space, emphasizing the need for companies to comply with registration requirements and provide accurate disclosures to investors.

Market Manipulation and Fraud Cases

The SEC has also targeted market manipulation and fraud within the cryptocurrency market. In June 2024, the SEC announced several enforcement actions against individuals and entities engaged in fraudulent schemes and manipulative trading practices. Key cases include:

  1. Pump-and-Dump Schemes: The SEC charged multiple individuals with orchestrating pump-and-dump schemes involving low-market-cap cryptocurrencies. These schemes involve artificially inflating the price of a cryptocurrency through misleading statements and coordinated buying, followed by selling off the assets at the inflated prices, leaving investors with significant losses. The SEC’s actions resulted in asset freezes, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and penalties for the perpetrators.
  2. DeFi Fraud: The SEC brought charges against a decentralized finance (DeFi) project for misleading investors about the nature and risks of their investment. The project claimed to offer high returns through innovative financial products but failed to disclose critical information about the risks and the project’s true financial health. The SEC’s enforcement action seeks to return funds to defrauded investors and impose penalties on the project’s operators.

These cases demonstrate the SEC’s proactive approach to identifying and prosecuting fraudulent activities in the crypto market, aiming to protect investors and maintain fair market conditions.

Regulatory Guidance and Compliance Expectations

In addition to enforcement actions, the SEC has issued new regulatory guidance to help crypto companies understand their compliance obligations. In May 2024, the SEC released a detailed framework outlining how existing securities laws apply to digital assets. Key points of the guidance include:

  1. Howey Test Application: The guidance clarifies how the Howey Test, used to determine whether an asset is a security, applies to digital tokens. It emphasizes that many tokens sold in ICOs meet the criteria of an investment contract and therefore must comply with securities laws.
  2. Registration Requirements: The SEC reiterates that companies conducting token sales must register their offerings or qualify for an exemption. This includes providing detailed disclosures about the project, the team, the use of proceeds, and the risks associated with the investment.
  3. Compliance Programs: The SEC encourages crypto companies to establish comprehensive compliance programs, including robust AML and Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures, to prevent illegal activities and ensure adherence to regulatory standards.

This regulatory guidance aims to provide clarity and support to crypto companies in navigating the complex legal landscape, promoting compliance and investor protection.

Implications for the Cryptocurrency Industry

The recent SEC actions have significant implications for the cryptocurrency industry. Increased regulatory scrutiny and enforcement actions are likely to impact how crypto companies operate and interact with investors. Specific implications include:

  1. Increased Compliance Costs: Crypto companies will need to invest in legal and compliance resources to ensure adherence to SEC regulations. This includes hiring compliance officers, implementing KYC/AML procedures, and conducting thorough due diligence on token offerings.
  2. Market Consolidation: Smaller crypto companies and projects may struggle to meet the stringent regulatory requirements, leading to market consolidation. Larger, more established firms with robust compliance frameworks may gain a competitive edge and attract more institutional investors.
  3. Innovation and Adaptation: The regulatory landscape will drive innovation in compliance technologies and practices. Companies that can adapt quickly to regulatory changes and demonstrate a commitment to compliance will be better positioned to thrive in the evolving market.

Future Outlook and Conclusion

The recent SEC actions targeting crypto companies for securities violations mark a significant shift in the regulatory landscape. Enhanced scrutiny, rigorous enforcement actions, and detailed regulatory guidance are reshaping how crypto companies operate and interact with investors. While these measures impose additional compliance burdens, they also offer opportunities for the industry to mature and gain investor trust.

In conclusion, the SEC’s intensified focus on the cryptocurrency market underscores the importance of regulatory compliance and investor protection. By cracking down on unregistered offerings, market manipulation, and fraud, the SEC aims to create a more transparent and accountable market environment. Crypto companies that embrace these regulatory changes and invest in robust compliance frameworks will be better positioned to thrive in the evolving market, ultimately benefiting investors and contributing to the long-term success of the cryptocurrency industry. The proactive adaptation to these regulations will be key to maintaining competitiveness and achieving sustainable growth in the dynamic crypto market.

Getting Legal Help

AXIS Legal Counsel’s Business and Corporations Practice provides legal advice to numerous businesses with a wide range of business matters. Axis  represent small, medium-sized, and large business clients with a wide variety of business and corporate law matters. We represent early-stage companies as well as established businesses on a wide variety of business law matters, ranging from contracts and transactions, intellectual property, labor/employment law, business financing, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, insurance, business succession planning, and general advice and counsel.  For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent your business in connection with any legal matter, contact [email protected]  for a confidential consultation.

Our Business, Corporate Law and Securities Practice Areas

  • Corporate Law
  • Small Business
  • Contracts & Agreements
  • Labor & Employment
  • Intellectual Property
  • Securities Law
  • Shareholders
  • Directors and Officers
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Business Sales
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Securities Law
  • Securities Offerings
  • PPMs
  • LPs, LLCs, and Corporations
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts
  • Investor Pools
  • Angel Investments & Private Equity
  • Leveraged Financings
  • Debts and Debt Notes
  • Convertible Notes
  • Regulation D, A, CF, and S Offerings


► Read our Business FAQs


Our FAQs answer the most common issues faced by startups and  businesses.

We have an extensive FAQ Library that covers the most common questions we get from businesses, as well as FAQs on recent changes in  law affecting businesses .

Visit our Entire FAQ Library

 Learn About Our Recent Projects


Have we counseled businesses like yours? All the time.

We have represented a variety of business clients in numerous industries across multiple disciplines and practice matters. Here are some of the highlights:



Our talented legal counsel has been quoted in a number of press outlets, including the following:


► Serving Clients Nationwide and in 22+ Countries Internationally

We represent clients throughout the U.S. and in 22+ countries internationally.