Eight states announced on Monday they’re bringing actions against the crypto-lending platform Nexo Group in connection with its unregistered, interest-bearing cryptocurrency product.
State regulators in California, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington and Vermont allege Nexo offered customers interest-earning accounts without first registering them as securities and providing necessary disclosures. Without access to these financial statements, state regulators contend investors cannot make informed investment decisions.
Nexo was also accused of misrepresenting its accounts and suggesting to investors that it was a licensed and registered platform, according to the filings. According to one of the filings, these interest-earning accounts, known as “Earn Interest Product,” offered investors yields as high as 36% on their deposited assets.
However, Nexo says only one asset, Axie Infinity (AXS) earns a 36% interest rate, and it does not advertise that yield in its marketing materials. Several of its most popular assets, such as Bitcoin, earn yields in the single digit percentages.
The crackdown comes after a number of crypto bankruptcies this year left investors without access to their funds. This summer, Celsius, which offered similar interest-bearing accounts, filed for bankruptcy after freezing customer funds. In July, Voyager filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The industry also saw billions of dollars wiped out during the weeks surrounding the implosion of cryptocurrency Terra USD and the failure of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital.
Nexo’s terms and conditions said the company had the ability to deploy customer assets at its “sole and absolute discretion.”
According to the order filed in Vermont, “investors have no part in selecting, monitoring, or reviewing the revenue-generating activities that Respondents utilize to earn this interest.”
The Vermont order states that as of July 31, 2022, more than 93,318 U.S. residents had invested more than $800 million in these accounts.
In response to more than 10,000 of its residents being affected, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the cryptocurrency platform.
Cryptocurrency platforms are not exceptional; they must register to operate just like other investment platforms. Nexo violated the law and investors’ trust by falsely claiming that it is a licensed and registered platform. Nexo must stop its unlawful operations and take necessary action to protect its investors.Letitia James, New York Attorney General
In February, the crypto-lending platform prevented U.S. investors who had not yet opened a Nexo account from investing in the Earn Interest Product or adding additional cryptocurrency into their accounts. The orders states filed further prevent Nexo from offering this product to residents until it meets the necessary registration requirements.
In a statement, Nexo looked to differentiate itself from other platforms that have run into financial problems this year.
We have been working with U.S. federal and state regulators and understand their urge, given the current market turmoil and bankruptcies of companies offering similar products, to fulfill their mandates of investor protection by examining past behavior of providers of earn interest products.
As the recent months have clearly underlined, Nexo is a very different provider of earn interest products, as showcased by the fact that it did not engage in uncollateralized loans, had no exposure to LUNA/UST, did not have to be bailed out, or needed to resort to any withdrawal restrictions.
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