The United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has been limited in penalizing irregularities with fines. The Supreme Court of US ruled on June 23 to restrain the amount of fine that the watchdog can inflict on crypto and blockchain-related companies.
The ruling of the U.S. apex court in the National Law Review states that the SEC can not impose fines (disgorgement) that exceed the profits generated by illicit proceeds. In addition, penalties may only be imposed for the benefit of victims, not as penal damages.
The new ruling will apply in the course of the proceedings to all litigants. Still, to cryptocurrency and blockchain companies, this is a strict definition of the penalty that must be equivalent to the offense when it comes to financial penalties. The SEC is already restricted by a five-year limitation period when it is imposed.
Substantial fines forced by the SEC in the past
In May, the SEC, in a case against BitClave, ordered the startup to refund $25.5M to investors after finding the firm guilty of distributing unregistered securities. The lawsuit also included $3.8 million in fines and interest. Moreover, the authority also indicted an ex-pastor and his wife for pilfering $500,000. Part of the amount was gained through a fraudulent cryptocurrency offering backed by a mineral water firm.
In that case, the SEC imposed fines equivalent to the stolen funds, on top of interests and civil penalties. The total amount exceeded the $500,000 that the two allegedly defrauded investors. However, the latest Supreme Court ruling would have inflicted a $500,000 fine, the amount reportedly stolen by the couple.
Supreme Court of US ruling leniency
In fact, under the new ruling, if the couple had used some of the ill-gotten funds in the water business that supported the offer, the amount spent would have been subtracted from the total amount after the SEC had fixed the due penalty.