SEC issues subpoena to Robinhood, investigates its cryptocurrency listings

Jani Avery

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena related to Robinhood Markets Inc.’s cryptocurrency listings.

The brokerage platform revealed in its most recent annual report that it received the investigative order from the SEC regarding the business’s digital assets, cryptocurrency listings, custody and platform operations.

The subpoena was aimed toward the supported currencies at Robinhood Crypto, a subsidiary of the brokerage, as well as its custody of cryptocurrencies and other platform operations. Robinhood currently supports 18 cryptocurrencies on its trading platform, including bitcoin, ethereum and “meme coins” such as Dogecoin.

The SEC’s move is part of a larger initiative against the entire digital asset industry. This came following the bankruptcy filings of major cryptocurrency trading venues including Three Arrows Capital, Voyager Digital Holdings Inc. and Celsius Network in July 2022 plus FTX in November 2022.

The SEC’s subpoena to Robinhood came after the company received a $30 million fine from the New York State Department of Financial Services on Aug. 2, 2022, for failing to “invest the proper resources and attention to develop and maintain a culture of compliance.”

Robinhood’s cryptocurrency trading platform faced previous scrutiny over the past few years. Another subpoena was issued in April 2021 by the office of the California attorney general in regard to its trading platform, custody of customer assets, customer disclosure and coin listing. The platform is said to be cooperating with the investigation.

The brokerage platform also received scrutiny from the Massachusetts Securities Division in the same year for allegedly targeting inexperienced investors.

The SEC has said the pre-existing securities laws do not exclude the digital asset industry and would not be spared, adding the indication that many tokens meet the definition of a security. This stance is strongly opposed by the cryptocurrency industry.

It is not the first time that the SEC has pushed this stance, targeting cryptocurrency-related firms. On Feb. 13, the government agency issued a “Wells Notice” to Paxos Trust Co., a stablecoin issuer. The letter said that Paxos allegedly violated investor protection laws with its Binance token, which the agency believes is an unregistered security.

SEC also issued a subpoena to Riot Platforms Inc., formerly known as Riot Blockchain. The agency targeted the bitcoin-driven infrastructure platform in April 2018 after observing a number of red flags in the company’s filings, according to Riot Platform’s annual report.

 The agency addressed the next step in its attempt to stop the registration of misleading cryptocurrency asset offerings.

“An issuer seeking to register the offer and sale of crypto assets as securities transactions must furnish the required disclosure information to the SEC,” the SEC said in a press release from Nov. 18, 2022.

The SEC’s announcement came as a response to proceedings against American CryptoFed DAO to determine whether a stop order should be issued on the offer and sale of two cryptocurrency assets, the Ducat and Locke tokens.

Toward the end of 2022, Robinhood’s cryptocurrency revenue lessened because of turbulent market conditions, ultimately dragging down its overall trading activity.

But, the platform’s cryptocurrency trade reached $3.7 billion in January, which is over 95% from December 2022.