Texas takes the lead on states' cryptocurrency crackdowns

  • On Friday, Texas' securities board issued its fourth emergency cease-and-desist order in just over a month on a cryptocurrency company.
  • The orders follow a roughly one-month undercover investigation of cryptocurrency investment programs, said Joseph Rotunda, director of the enforcement division at the Texas State Securities Board.
  • Other states have not yet taken as dramatic steps against cryptocurrency fraud.
DavorCoin
Source: DavorCoin

Texas is becoming one of the most active regulators of cryptocurrencies.

On Friday, the state's securities board issued its fourth emergency cease-and-desist order in just over a month on a cryptocurrency company.

DavorCoin is violating sections of the Texas Securities Act by offering unregistered securities for sale and misleading the public, Securities Commissioner Travis J. Iles said in Friday's order.

The Texas State Securities Board previously issued emergency cease-and-desist orders on:

Jan. 24 against a Hong Kong-based company selling a r2b coin, "promising investors that the digital currency will soon be one of the world's most valuable."

Jan. 4 against BitConnect, which "is soliciting investors for cryptocurrency-based programs that the company claims will deliver annualized returns of 100% or more."

Dec. 20 against USI-Tech Limited, "an overseas firm that is promising low-risk, triple-digit returns from investments tied to Bitcoin mining."

After the order against BitConnect, DavorCoin tweeted on Jan. 16 that "this does not change anything for us except that now Davor is the number one lending platform in the world !!"

The company claims it pays interest on customer deposits of its digital coin, which can only be bought using bitcoin. That coin has lost more than three-fourths of its value since Thursday and was trading near $1.60 Monday, according to CoinMarketCap.

DavorCoin did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment.

The Texas cease-and-desist orders follow a roughly one-month undercover investigation of cryptocurrency investment programs, said Joseph Rotunda, director of the enforcement division at the Texas State Securities Board.

"We confirmed our suspicion that they were being marketed toward retirees," Rotunda said. "They were not disclosing the information that needs to be disclosed to an investor."

Other states have not yet taken as dramatic steps against cryptocurrency fraud.

Florida, North Carolina and Kansas all issued investor alerts on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings in January, after a similar warning from Massachusetts in December. North Carolina's Securities Division also issued a temporary cease-and-desist order on BitConnect five days after Texas' emergency order on the company.

On a federal level, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission have increased their efforts to halt speculative and fraudulent activity in cryptocurrencies in the last several months.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo are scheduled to testify at a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday morning.

Most recently, the SEC said last week it obtained a court order to halt a token sale claiming to be the largest of its kind at $600 million. The court also approved an emergency asset freeze of the company, AriseBank, and its two co-founders.

Texas appeared ahead of the game in this case as well. In early January, the Texas Department of Banking had issued a cease-and-desist order on AriseBank.

Rotunda is also vice chair of the enforcement section committee of the North American Securities Administrators Association.

"In both of those roles we've been monitoring cryptocurrencies quite a bit," he said. "I think what we're doing right now is we're adapting to a new way of selling securities."