One year after the SEC warned against celebrity endorsements of shady ICOs, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Thursday that it had settled charges with boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. and music producer DJ Khaled for failing to disclose payments they received to promote ICOs on their social media feeds.
According to the Commission's press release, Mayweather was found to have failed to disclose payments from three ICO sponsors while Khaled failed to disclose a $50,000 payment from Centra Tech Inc. Mayweather agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty and return $300,000 he made pitching Centra, while Khaled agreed to pay $100,000 plus forfeit the $50,000 paid to him for the promotions. In addition, Mayweather agreed not to promote any crypto products for 3 years, while Khaled agreed to a similar ban for 2 (Mayweather is also continuing to cooperate with investigators).
In one post advertising Centra, Floyd joked that his followers should start calling him Floyd "Crypto" Mayweather.
Mayweather and Khaled were among a rash of celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Ghostface Killa, Jamie Foxx and Dennis Rodman, who struck deals to sponsor ICOs - and were subsequently warned by the SEC that they were violating securities laws. Two of the founders of Centra Tech were arrested by federal authorities back in April for violating anti-fraud and registration provisions of federal securities laws, according to cryptoglobe. The company raised $32 million during the height of the ICO frenzy in 2017.
"We allege that Centra sold investors on the promise of new digital technologies by using a sophisticated marketing campaign to spin a web of lies about their supposed partnerships with legitimate businesses. As the complaint alleges, these and other claims were simply false," an SEC spokeswoman said in a statement about Centra.
In its release announcing the settlements, the SEC advised that investors should be "skeptical of investment advice posted to social media platforms."
"These cases highlight the importance of full disclosure to investors," said Enforcement Division Co-Director Stephanie Avakian. "With no disclosure about the payments, Mayweather and Khaled's ICO promotions may have appeared to be unbiased, rather than paid endorsements."
"Investors should be skeptical of investment advice posted to social media platforms, and should not make decisions based on celebrity endorsements," said Enforcement Division Co-Director Steven Peikin. "Social media influencers are often paid promoters, not investment professionals, and the securities they’re touting, regardless."
They aren't the first celebrities to be targeted by the SEC over ICO promotion (though they are undoubtedly the most famous). Earlier this year, John McAfee claimed he had stopped pitching ICOs due to SEC threats.
Given the sheer insanity at the height of the ICO frenzy, and the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars in "market cap" have already vanished, we imagine Mayweather and Khaled won't be the only celebrities to pay fines to the SEC.