By Douglas Gillison and Pete Schroeder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former pro US basketball star Paul Pierce has agreed to pay more than $1.4 million to settle charges he illegally promoted digital assets, Wall Street’s top regulator said Friday.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Pierce promoted crypto tokens sold by EthereumMax on social media without disclosing he was paid to do so, and made misleading statements about the product.
The settlement with the former Boston Celtic and NBA Hall-of-Famer marks the latest move by the SEC to crack down on celebrity endorsements of crypto products.
Pierce settled the charges without admitting or denying them, agreeing to pay $1.1 million in fines and another $240,000 representing the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, according to the SEC.
“This case is yet another reminder to celebrities: The law requires you to disclose to the public from whom and how much you are getting paid to promote investment in securities, and you can’t lie to investors when you tout a security,” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement.
A representative for Pierce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last year, the SEC penalized several celebrities, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian and former boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr for their roles in improperly promoting crypto tokens through social media.
Under Gensler, the SEC has taken a hard line against the nascent cryptocurrency industry, multiplying enforcement actions against trading platforms accused of operating outside investor protection laws. The agency this week proposed new rules governing custody of assets under management by hedge funds and others which critics said would hinder investment in digital currencies.
(Reporting by Pete Schroeder, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)