Most of us have seen news reports about the ongoing cryptocurrency craze, including the skyrocketing and plummeting prices for Bitcoin and other electronic currencies. Now, some cryptocurrency companies are facing federal investigators based on allegations of fraud
The latest news comes from Dallas, where a cryptocurrency bank founded less than a year ago has been charged along with its owners of fraud and other alleged wrongdoing. Launched in March 2017, AriseBank claimed to have raised $600 million in the past two months in an initial coin offering (ICO) for its AriseCoins. Such sales are like an initial public offering (IPO) of stock options.
The bank said it had “one of the largest crypto-currency platforms ever built.” But the Fort Worth Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says the bank was nothing more than an “outright scam.” The government says the company misled investors and sold unregistered securities under fraudulent terms.
After falsely claiming that it had purchased an FDIC-insured bank, AriseBank failed to tell investors that its co-founders have prior felony criminal convictions, according to the SEC.
Now, a Dallas federal judge has appointed a receiver to figure out how much of investors’ money, if any, remains.
It’s not hard to imagine that lawsuits from investors will soon follow, although collecting any judgment against AriseBank is now in doubt since the bank has been put under the government’s control and no one appears to yet know if any assets remain.
Investment Scams Nothing New
The trail of investment scams extends nearly as long as investing itself. That is why the cryptocurrency frenzy should send up a warning flare for many of today’s investors. For every quality investment opportunity, there are many more scams nearby.
One notable example came in 1986, when a California teenager formed ZZZZ Best Inc. and claimed the company was the “General Motors of carpet cleaning.” After the company sold millions in stock options, federal investigators discovered that ZZZZ Best was little more than a series of phony documents and sales receipts. In the end, investors lost more than $100 million and the company’s founder was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Perhaps the greatest investment scam in history is rooted in Texas with the fall of energy giant Enron in 2001. Houston-based Enron was ranked as the seventh-largest company in the world. Unfortunately, the company was hiding billions of dollars in debt through a series of accounting transactions that relied on shell companies to conceal dire financial circumstances. In addition to resulting in the collapse of the global accounting firm Arthur Andersen, the fall of Enron caused billions of dollars in losses for investors and employees. More than 4,000 employees were let go after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
The AriseBank story should serve as an important lesson for everyone. That’s especially true for those of us who are only mildly familiar with the ins and outs of the investing process. There are seemingly countless state and federal laws covering proper investment protocols and the sale and purchase of securities. Few “regular” investors know all the rules.
No matter how many TV commercials make it look easy to handle your own investment decisions, the truth is that investing is complicated business. Just because you have been successful enough to accumulate enough money to invest on your own doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy the same success when it comes to finding the right investment opportunity.
That is why it is so important to have a trusted financial advisor and knowledgeable attorney involved if you’re thinking about plunking down your hard-earned cash in hopes of realizing positive returns in the future. Failing to do so could put you in the same position as the investors who backed AriseBank and are now waiting to see if the government can help them reclaim their money.