SEC sues John McAfee over promoting cryptocurrency offerings on Twitter

John McAfee

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday sued John McAfee, creator of the eponymous anti-virus software, alleging that he made over $23.1 million in undisclosed compensation from recommending seven cryptocurrency offerings on Twitter that were materially false and misleading.

The regulator, which is seeking a trial by jury, alleged that from at least November 2017 through February 2018, McAfee recommended cryptocurrencies that he was paid to promote, while falsely denying “he was being paid by the issuers.”

“McAfee leveraged his fame to make more than $23.1 million in undisclosed compensation” by recommending at least seven initial coin offerings or ICOs to his Twitter followers, the SEC said.

McAfee’s recommendations were “materially false and misleading,” in that he tried to sell “virtually worthless” cryptocurrency tokens by encouraging investors to buy the securities without disclosing his own holdings, the SEC alleged.

The SEC is seeking to impose on McAfee a civil penalty as well as disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, with interest. The agency also wants to ban him permanently from serving as an officer or director of any listed company or any company that files reports to the agency.

The agency is pursuing charges against Jimmy Gale Watson, Jr., a bodyguard to McAfee, on charges he aided and abetted the sale of the digital currencies, among other allegations.

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John McAfee sued by SEC for ICO promotions, arrested on U.S. tax evasion charges

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against crypto investor and promoter John McAfee for his past promotion of initial coin offerings (ICOs) on social media.

Per the complaint:

“From at least November 2017 through February 2018, McAfee leveraged his fame to make more than $23.1 million U.S. Dollars (“USD”) in undisclosed compensation by recommending at least seven “initial coin offerings” or ICOs to his Twitter followers. The ICOs at issue involved the offer and sale of digital asset securities and McAfee’s recommendations were materially false and misleading for several reasons.”

Specifically, McAfee was accused of not disclosing “that he was being paid to promote the ICOs by the issuers,” that he “falsely claimed to be an investor and/or a technical advisor when he recommended several ICOs,” that he “encouraged investors to purchase the securities sold in certain of the ICOs without disclosing that he was simultaneously trying to sell his own holdings and had paid another third-party promoter to tout the securities” and that he “engaged in a practice known as “scalping” as to at least one digital asset security, by accumulating large amounts of the digital asset security and touting it on Twitter without disclosing his intent to sell it.”

In a separate action announced by the Department of Justice, McAfee has been charged with tax evasion. McAfee has been arrested in Spain “where he is pending extradition.”

The DOJ stated:

“According to the indictment, John McAfee earned millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. From 2014 to 2018, McAfee allegedly failed to file tax returns, despite receiving considerable income from these sources. The indictment does not allege that during these years McAfee received any income or had any connection with the anti-virus

AOC asked the SEC to investigate Palantir ahead of direct listing

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for the agency to investigate the data-mining company Palantir ahead of its stock-market debut, which it made on Wednesday.
  • Among the congresswoman’s concerns is Palantir’s longtime penchant for secrecy, which she wrote could hurt future investors.
  • Other concerns listed are its domestic and foreign contracts, including with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, law-enforcement agencies, and foreign governments that “may present human rights risks.”
  • Palantir, a famed Silicon Valley startup founded in 2003, has a reputation for being secretive and has come under scrutiny recently ahead of its direct listing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote a letter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in mid-September asking the agency to investigate the secretive data firm Palantir as the company gained attention with its stock-exchange plans.

In the letter, the congresswoman listed several concerns pertaining to the Peter Thiel-founded Silicon Valley startup. But her primary grievance was the startup’s failure to fully disclose information regarding its business practices, omissions that could lead to material risks for future investors and national security issues as it begins trading, the letter said.

According to Ocasio-Cortez, one such partial omission was the funding it received from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture-capital arm. A 2009 shareholder report from Palantir revealed that In-Q-Tel held a 10% share in Palantir, but the firm’s 2020 S-1 filing did not say whether that investment was still in play or how many Palantir shares In-Q-Tel held. Palantir is listed as one of In-Q-Tel’s portfolio companies on the venture group’s website.

Palantir’s contracts with foreign governments were also cited, some of which involve governments “known to engage in corrupt practices and human rights violations,” such as Qatar, Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the letter.

Palantir’s domestic contracts have