It’s not just international police trying to hold Terraform Labs accountable for a collapse that took $40 billion from investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Terraform and its CEO Do Kwon with securities fraud for allegedly running a “multi-billion dollar” crypto asset scheme. The blockchain startup purportedly misled investors by falsely claiming that its TerraUSD asset was a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar, with high yields (up to 20 percent). The firm also fooled people by claiming its Luna token would gain value thanks to a Korean mobile payment app that used the Terra blockchain to settle transactions.
Terraform and Do Kwon didn’t provide “full, fair and truthful disclosure” for their crypto asset securities, SEC chair Gary Gensler says. The charges include registration and anti-fraud violations of the Securities Act and Exchange Act.
TerraUSD and Luna lost their peg to the US dollar in May 2022, with the prices of both plunging to near-zero. Investors lodged complaints accusing Terraform and Kwon of running a Ponzi scheme, and the freefall contributed to the collapse of the crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital. The crypto exchange Binance quickly faced a lawsuit over claims it incorrectly marketed TerraUSD as a safe asset. While Kwon insisted that he wasn’t evading capture, he left his native South Korea, refused to face investigators’ questions and was put on Interpol’s “red notice” list.
The SEC’s charges join a string of efforts to crack down on reported fraud among some of the crypto industry’s biggest names. Authorities have most notably pursued FTX and its founder Sam Bankman-Fried over that exchange’s downfall, while former Celsius Network chief Alex Mashinsky is also accused of defrauding investors. While crypto may still have a future, it’s clear government bodies want stricter enforcement of financial laws in this arena.