DJ Khaled apparently did not listen to his own mantra: “Don’t play yourself.”
The music mogul, along with pro-boxer Floyd Mayweather, settled civil charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday for their involvement in an alleged cryptocurrency scam.
After receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, the duo allegedly failed to disclose payments they received for promoting initial coin offerings, according to the SEC’s settlement announcement.
This is the first SEC case pursuing violations over coin offerings, a relatively new phenomenon that has attracted billions of dollars of investment in new cryptocurrencies—often with little to back them up.
“These cases highlight the importance of full disclosure to investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, in a statement. “With no disclosure about the payments, Mayweather and Khaled’s ICO promotions may have appeared to be unbiased, rather than paid endorsements.”
In the settlement, the SEC alleges that Mayweather failed to disclose a $100,000 promotional payment from Centra Tech Inc., while Khaled didn’t disclose a $50,000 payment. In May, the tech company’s three co-founders were indicted for cryptocurrency fraud, fraudulently raising more than $25 million from investors in an initial coin offering. The Department of Justice also filed parallel criminal charges in the case.
The two celebrities even touted the company on their social-media accounts. Khaled called the company a “game changer” while Mayweather’s promotions included a message to his Twitter followers that Centra’s ICO “starts in a few hours. Get yours before they sell out, I got mine.”
“You can call me Floyd Crypto Mayweather from now on,” he wrote on twitter last August. The SEC alleges Mayweather failed to disclose that he was paid over $200,000 to promote the other two ICOs.
After an a slew of celebrities pivoted to ICOs for side revenue, the SEC issued a warning last year that coins sold in ICOs have to comply with federal securities laws and its subsequent payments.
Both Mayweather and Khaled’s promotional pushes came after the SEC warning.
“Investors should be skeptical of investment advice posted to social media platforms, and should not make decisions based on celebrity endorsements,” said SEC Enforcement Division Co-Director Steven Peikin. “Social media influencers are often paid promoters, not investment professionals, and the securities they’re touting, regardless of whether they are issued using traditional certificates or on the blockchain, could be frauds.”
Mayweather agreed to pay more than $600,000 in penalties and disgorgement, and Khaled will pay more than $150,000—though neither admitted to any wrongdoing in the settlement.
The pair also agreed not to promote securities for three years and to cooperate with the investigation. Khaled agreed to a two-year ban on promoting cryptocurrencies.