Multiple U.S. Crypto Lending Firms Under Investigation by California Regulator
Amid the latest troubles faced by some major cryptocurrency lenders following the crypto market downturn, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) is looking into multiple U.S. companies offering cryptocurrency interest accounts.
California Probing Crypto Lenders in the U.S.
In a Consumer Alert issued on Tuesday (July 12, 2022), the DFPI said it is investigating several crypto lending firms that were offering interest-bearing cryptocurrency accounts to customers. The California regulator referred to recent actions taken against BlockFi and Voyager, adding that certain crypto-interest accounts were unregistered securities.
BlockFi previously agreed to pay a $100 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for failing to register its lending product. Iowa also issued a consent order against the firm, alleging that the lender sold unregistered securities, consequently ordering BlockFi to pay over $900,000.
The DFPI further said that the Department was looking into lending companies to check if they were operating in contravention of the regulator’s laid down rules.
An excerpt from the release reads:
“The Department warns California consumers and investors that many crypto-interest account providers may not have adequately disclosed risks customers face when they deposit crypto assets onto these platforms.”
Meanwhile, the latest development comes as many crypto lenders are facing a liquidity crisis. Companies reduced their staff and also suspended withdrawals and deposits amid the bearish market condition.
Voyager Digital, which earlier revealed its exposure to struggling Three Arrows Capital (3AC), filed for bankruptcy protection, according to a recent report by crypto.news.
Vermont Launches Investigation Into Celsius
Another cryptocurrency lending company Celsius has come under the radar of Vermont regulator, the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR). The DFR alleged that Celsius is “deeply insolvent” and lacked adequate assets and liquidity to fulfill outstanding obligations.
Also, the Vermont regulator stated that the crypto firm engaged in an unregistered securities offering. DFR mentioned that it is involved in a multi-state investigation of the lending platform. According to a Consumer Alert notice on July 12:
“The Department believes Celsius has been engaged in an unregistered securities offering by offering cryptocurrency interest accounts to retail investors. Celsius also lacks a money transmitter license. This means that until recently, Celsius was operating largely without regulatory oversight.”
Celsius, which also halted withdrawals since June 13, recently repaid its entire loan to Maker, thereby reclaiming $440 million worth of wrapped BTC collateral. The company, like other struggling crypto firms following the market downturn, earlier laid off 150 workers.
A former asset manager for Celsius further sued the firm for fraud, accusing the company of using customers’ funds to inflate the value of its CEL token, among other allegations.
Meanwhile, Celsius has been working to avoid further crises and get back in shape. In June, the beleaguered lending platform hired restructuring lawyers from the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. However, Celsius changed its legal advisors nearly a month later, going for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, although the company did not state the reason for the change.