Image: Robert Kamau/GC Images
Add Atlanta based hip-hop artist T.I. to the long list of celebrities who have faced a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action for promoting an ICO. According to a SEC press release, the Commission announced charges against five Atlanta-based individuals, including film producer Ryan Felton, rapper and actor Clifford Harris, Jr., known as T.I. or Tip, and three others who each promoted one of Felton’s two unregistered and fraudulent initial coin offerings (ICOs). The SEC also charged FLiK and CoinSpark, the two companies controlled by Felton that conducted the ICOs. Aside from Felton, all of the individuals have agreed to settlements to resolve the charges against them.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Felton promised to build a digital streaming platform for FLiK, and a digital-asset trading platform for CoinSpark. Instead, Felton allegedly misappropriated the funds raised in the ICOs. The complaint also alleges that Felton secretly transferred FLiK tokens to himself and sold them into the market, reaping an additional $2.2 million in profits, and that he engaged in manipulative trading to inflate the price of SPARK tokens. Felton allegedly used the funds he misappropriated and the proceeds of his manipulative trading to buy a Ferrari, a million-dollar home, diamond jewelry, and other luxury goods.
Image: Flag of the US SEC via Wikimedia Commons
In a settled administrative order, the SEC finds that T.I. offered and sold FLiK tokens on his social media accounts, falsely claiming to be a FLiK co-owner and encouraging his followers to invest in the FLiK ICO. T.I. also asked a celebrity friend to promote the FLiK ICO on social media and provided the language for posts, referring to FLiK as T.I.’s “new venture.” The SEC’s complaint alleges that T.I.’s social media manager William Sparks, Jr. offered and sold FLiK tokens on T.I.’s social media accounts, and that two other Atlanta residents, Chance White and Owen Smith, promoted SPARK tokens without disclosing they were promised compensation in return.
“The federal securities laws provide the same protections to investors in digital asset securities as they do to investors in more traditional forms of securities,” said Carolyn M. Welshhans, Associate Director in the Division of Enforcement. “As alleged in the SEC’s complaint, Felton victimized investors through material misrepresentations, misappropriation of their funds, and manipulative trading.”
Other celebrities that have been sanctioned by the SEC due to their promotions of cryptocurrencies include DJ Khaled, Floyd Mayweather, Steven Seagal and, Paris Hilton among others.