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TABLE OF CONTENTS

US Regulators v Crypto: $12.4B in Largest Settlements

4.3 | by Lim Yu Qian

What Are the Top Crypto Enforcement Actions in the US?

Among US regulators’ crypto lawsuits, bankrupt crypto lender Celsius has been dealt the biggest settlement of $4.70 billion to date. Celsius reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2023, in a lawsuit over the company’s investor protection violations. However, Celsius’ payment for the settlement has been postponed to after its bankruptcy proceedings.

Binance’s $4.30 billion settlement makes it the second largest enforcement action. Even so, the Binance settlement is considered a landmark win for US regulators, as the only billion-dollar settlement given to an operating crypto company to date. The leading global crypto exchange agreed to plead guilty in November 2023, to resolve lawsuits with multiple US regulators including the Department of Justice (DOJ), Treasury Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). 

The third largest crypto enforcement action is against another bankrupt crypto lender Voyager, which reached a settlement of $1.65 billion with the FTC in October 2023. Similar to the Celsius settlement, Voyager’s settlement payment has been postponed to after its bankruptcy is resolved. 

In total, there are just 15 crypto lawsuits with US regulators that have reached settlements of over $10.00 million so far. In comparison, the traditional financial services industry has recorded 48 lawsuit settlements above $1.00 billion, according to the Violation Tracker.

Investor protection violations, anti-money laundering (AML) deficiencies and economic sanction violations were the primary types of offenses addressed in the US’ top 15 crypto enforcement actions towards companies.

When Did Top US Crypto Enforcement Actions Happen?

Almost half, or 7 of the 15 largest US crypto enforcement actions reached settlement in 2023 (47%). The crypto industry has seen heightened regulatory scrutiny worldwide this year, following the collapse of centralized crypto exchange FTX in November 2022. 

In particular, the top 4 crypto lawsuit settlements with US regulators all took place in 2023, beginning with the Coinbase settlement of $100.00 million to the New York Department of Financial Services (NY DFS).

2019 to 2022: US Regulators Won 8 Top Crypto Lawsuit Settlements

In late 2019, US regulators achieved their first major crypto lawsuit settlement with Block.one (now rebranded as B1), the company behind EOS. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reached a settlement with Block.one for $24.00 million, over charges that the company sold unregistered securities.

The SEC went on to win two more major crypto lawsuits in 2020, with ICO issuer BitClave’s $29.34 million settlement in May, and Telegram’s $1.24 billion settlement over its Gram token offering under subsidiary TON Issuer in June. The $1.24 billion Telegram settlement included a disgorgement of $1.22 billion and a civil penalty of $18.50 million. 

Amid the 2021 bull market, US regulators managed to record three top crypto enforcement actions against notable industry players. Crypto exchanges Poloniex and BitMEX settled their lawsuits in August for $10.39 million and $100.00 million respectively. Subsequently in October, stablecoin issuer Tether reached a settlement with the CFTC for $41.00 million, over claims that USDT was fully backed by USD assets. The CFTC also settled against Tether’s parent company Bitfinex, at a lower $1.50 million penalty for illegal transactions.

In 2022, crypto lender BlockFi reached a $100.00 million settlement with the SEC and North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), while crypto exchange Bittrex reached a $29.00 million settlement with the Treasury Department. 

US Regulators Leading Crypto Enforcement Actions

To date, 7 US regulatory agencies have led the crypto lawsuits that reached the 15 biggest settlements with companies. The SEC alone has led or co-led 8 crypto lawsuits that rank among the top 15 settlements to date, but was notably absent from the coordinated Binance settlement in November 2023.

This is followed by the Treasury Department and CFTC’s leading involvement in 3 crypto lawsuit settlements each, and 2 led by the FTC. Meanwhile, the DOJ, NY DFS and NASAA have led or co-led 1 major crypto lawsuit settlement each.

US Regulators’ 15 Biggest Settlements With Crypto Companies

Ranking the top 15 monetary settlements for lawsuits between crypto companies and US regulators, as of November 24, 2023:

Rank Company Settlement with US Regulators
1 Celsius $4.70 billion
2 Binance $4.30 billion
3 Voyager $1.65 billion
4 Telegram (TON) $1.24 billion
5 Coinbase $100.00 million
6 BlockFi $100.00 million
7 BitMEX $100.00 million
8 Nexo $45.00 million
9 Tether $41.00 million
10 Kraken $30.00 million
11 BitClave $29.34 million
12 Bittrex $29.00 million
13 Bittrex $24.00 million
14 Block.one (B1) $24.00 million
15 Poloniex $10.39 million

Methodology

The study examined crypto companies’ monetary settlements with United States regulators in federal court cases that have reached resolution, based on official announcements from 2019 to November 24, 2023. The settlement year was attributed according to the date of the respective announcement. Charges brought against individuals were excluded.


If you use these insights, we would appreciate a link credit to this article on CoinGecko. A link credit allows us to keep supplying you with data-led content that you may find useful.

Curious to find out more about our previous research studies & statistics? Check out this one we did on crypto lobbying in the US.

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Lim Yu Qian
Lim Yu Qian

Yuqian is a cryptocurrency writer and marketer who specializes in mainstream cryptocurrency insights. She's especially fascinated by the philosophical and socioeconomic aspects of crypto and also goes by the name of Q. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honors from the National University of Singapore. Follow the author on Twitter @solosbrqt

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