The SEC, CFTC and DOJ have seven cases either resolved or ongoing this year, with the litigation against husband-wife duo Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan being the most high profile.
A new crypto litigation tracker from commercial law firm Morrison Cohen LLP shows details of more than 300 active and settled court cases since 2013.
Morrison Cohen is a New York-based firm that caters to large financial institutions, entrepreneurs and early-growth stage companies and specializes in capital markets, business litigation, real estate and bankruptcy, to name a few. The company also has a cryptocurrency litigation team.
The Morrison Cohen Cryptocurrency Litigation Tracker was published on Tuesday and contains any case development related to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and class action/private litigation.
The firm stated that it will regularly update the tracker “to include the key rulings in these litigations,” and it also contains a host of “articles, webinars, and podcasts” and regulatory crypto announcements from various government agencies.
According to the tracker — which is essentially a lengthy PDF document — there have been roughly 17 crypto cases that were either brought before the court or resolved in 2022 so far.
The SEC, CFTC and DOJ combined account for seven of those, with some high profile cases being the SEC v. the Barksdale siblings, who allegedly conducted a fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO) worth $124 million, and the SEC v. digital asset platform BlockFi, who agreed to pay a $100 million penalty for failing to register its crypto lending product.
The most notable of all, however, is the ongoing DOJ v.Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan case. The husband-wife duo is charged with an alleged conspiracy to launder funds relating to the 119,756 Bitcoin (BTC) Bitfinex hack in 2016. DOJ special agents were able to seize 94,000 BTC around the time of arrests in February.
This year, there may also be plenty more in the works, considering the SEC announced that it will be upping the headcount of its enforcement-focused “Crypto Assets & Cyber Unit” to 50 dedicated positions.
Today we announced that we’re bolstering the unit responsible for protecting investors in crypto markets & from cyber-related threats. The newly renamed Crypto Assets & Cyber Unit in the Division of Enforcement will grow to 50 dedicated positions.
— U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (@SECGov) May 3, 2022
Related: Has New York State gone astray in its pursuit of crypto fraud?
The majority of action has been over in the class action/private arena, however, with SafeMoon attracting the most attention after the team was slapped with a class-action lawsuit over an alleged pump and dump scheme.
The class action claims the project recruited numerous celebrities to draw in investors with allegedly misleading information, with musicians such as Nick Carter, Soulja Boy, Lil Yachty and YouTubers Jake Paul and Ben Phillips all said to have promoted the BNB Chain-based token.
A unique case that seems to have mostly flown under the radar is the Halston Thayer v. Matt Furie, Chain/Saw LL and PegzDAO from March.
The trio — which includes Furie, the original creator of the beloved Pepe the Frog meme — is accused of fraudulent inducement after allegedly selling a one-of-one nonfungible token (NFT) that tanked in value following an identical NFT drop that was released for free.
“Plaintiff alleges that defendants fraudulently misrepresented the value of a Pepe the Frog NFT. Plaintiff paid $537,084 for a Pepe the Frog NFT created by Furie and sold through PegzDAO. A few weeks after the sale, PegzDAO released 46 identical NFTs for free, which allegedly reduced the value of Plaintiff’s NFT,“ Morrison Cohen wrote.