New Jersey regulators have ordered Bitstrade, a cryptocurrency investment firm, to stop offering what they say are unregistered securities.
The Bureau of Securities issued a cease and desist order on Feb. 9 to Bitstrade to prevent it from offering bitcoin-backed securities to New Jersey residents, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the state Division of Consumer Affairs announced.
The company—not registered to operate in the state, according to the order—didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Regulators allege that Bitstrade was violating the state’s Uniform Securities Law by offering investors an unregistered security in the form of an investment pool that purportedly guaranteed up to 10 percent returns, which accrue daily on investor funds.
Bitstrade, a release said, violated the law by failing to disclose key material facts to prospective investors, including the names of its executive officers, the address of its principal office, information about Bitstrade’s financial condition, the risks of the investments, and how Bitstrade deploys investors’ money.
“The bureau’s action today reinforces our commitment to protecting investors as they navigate the uncharted and largely unregulated domain of cryptocurrency-related investments,” Grewal said in a statement. “We want to make sure that investors tempted to cash in on the cryptocurrency rage aren’t being lured into sending funds to an anonymous internet entity without knowing where the funds are going or how they’ll be used.”
According to the documents, on its website, www.bitstrade.org, Bitstrade offers the general public an opportunity to invest in the “Bitstrade Investment,” described as an investment pool through which it collects “multiple lower value investments and group[s] them into one single HUGE investment using those funds to trade on the stock market, and generate outstanding returns.”
Cryptocurrencies are a medium of exchange created and stored electronically in the blockchain, a distributed public database that keeps a permanent record of digital transactions. Current common cryptocurrencies include bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin. Unlike traditional currency, these alternatives have no physical form and typically are not backed by tangible assets. They are not insured or controlled by a central bank or other governmental authority, cannot always be exchanged for other commodities, and are subject to little or no regulation, regulators say.
The bureau said Bitstrade lists a business address in Redland, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona. According to the bureau, the California address listed on Bitstrade’s website does not exist, and the Arizona address listed is the headquarters of an unrelated, publicly traded internet domain registrar and web-hosting company.