SEC sues crypto influencer Ian Balina

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has sued crypto influencer Ian Balina for violating securities laws when he promoted an unregistered token offering in 2018.

Specifically, the agency filed the action against the 33-year old YouTuber for promoting an unregistered security token and failing to offer disclosures for the initial coin offering (ICO). The project in question was by software development company Sparkster and its security token SPRK.

The agency also says Balina received payment for his role, which he did not disclose even after a $5 million contract with Sparkster. He also agreed a 30% bonus on SPRK purchases – which were also not publicly disclosed.

Part of the complaint filed in the United States District Court, Western District of Texas

Austin Division reads:

“Balina, a self-described crypto asset investor, promoter, and influencer, who claimed he could help people “make millions with initial coin offerings,” failed to disclose the compensation he received from the issuer while he publicly promoted the tokens. He also failed to file a registration statement with the SEC for the tokens that he re-sold using an investing pool that he organized.”

Balina gave Sparkster ICO a 90% rating

The crypto influencer reportedly helped Sparkster raise $30 million from the public sale of the tokens between April and July 2018. According to the SEC, the ICO involved nearly 4,000 investors from across the globe and from the US.

On one instance, Balina sought to encourage participation in the offering, citing in a June 5, 2018 Ask Me Anything, or AMA on YouTube that he was “very bullish” on the project. He’s quoted as saying during the live YouTube session:

 “Yes. Very bullish, guys. They crushed it. … I think Sparkster has definitely overachieved in publicly showing what they have more than any ICO. That’s why I still believe in Sparkster. … Sparkster, I am personally very bullish on.”

In another instance, he listed Sparkster as number one on a list of top ICO tokens to watch – his opinion being that it’s a “hall of fame” project with a 90% rating. 

The SEC has charged crypto influencers and celebrities before over their role in promoting shady projects during the 2017 coin offering boom. One of these actions was brought against Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, who the SEC fined $350,000 for his part in an unregistered ICO. Others to face fines from the regulator were Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled.

For Balina, the regulator says his actions violated the Securities Act of 1933 and wants a trial by jury, seeking “injunctive relief, disgorgement, civil penalties, and other appropriate and necessary equitable relief.”

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