SEC Charges Tron Founder Justin Sun and Celebrities for Fraud and Securities Violations

25 Mar 2023

Hey Peeps!


On March 22nd , the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced charges, via press release, against the founder of Tron, Justin Sun, and his three companies: Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd., and Rainberry Inc.
The official charges against Justin Sun and his three companies are:

  • the "unregistered offer and sale of crypto asset securities Tronix (TRX) and BitTorrent (BTT)"
  • for "fraudulently manipulating the secondary market for TRX through extensive wash trading"
  • and for "orchestrating a scheme to pay celebrities to tout TRX and BTT without disclosing their compensation"

Wash trading is a process where a trader buys and sells a security with the purpose of misleading the market and make it appear actively traded without any actual change in genuine ownership. 

The SEC alleges that Justin Sun directed his employees to engage in wash trading to inflate the daily trading volume, and resulted in a grand total of 600,000 wash trades. 


“This case demonstrates again the high risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure. As alleged, Sun and his companies not only targeted U.S. investors in their unregistered offers and sales, generating millions in illegal proceeds at the expense of investors, but they also coordinated wash trading on an unregistered trading platform to create the misleading appearance of active trading in TRX. Sun further induced investors to purchase TRX and BTT by orchestrating a promotional campaign in which he and his celebrity promoters hid the fact that the celebrities were paid for their tweets.”
Gary Gensler, Chair of the SEC


The SEC's press release also announced additional charges against 8 celebrities for "illegally touting TRX and/or BTT without disclosing that they were compensated for doing so and the amount of their compensation".

The 8 celebrities being charged are:

  • Lindsay Lohan
  • Jake Paul
  • DeAndre Cortez Way (Soulja Boy)
  • Austin Mahone
  • Michele Mason (Kendra Lust)
  • Miles Parks McCollum (Lil Yachty)
  • Shaffer Smith (Ne-Yo)
  • Aliaune Thiam (Akon)

All of the named celebrities, except for Soulja Boy and Austin Mahone, have agreed to pay a $400,000 penalty to settle the charges "without admitting or denying the SEC's findings". 

I found this part a little humorous as it clearly shows a different levels of justice for the rich and famous where they can easily pay a simple fee and make the charges disappear without even have to admit guilt. 

Now these celebrities can go on to influence more normal people and potential do the same thing over again with barely any repercussions or accountability. 

“While we’re neutral about the technologies at issue, we’re anything but neutral when it comes to investor protection. As alleged in the complaint, Sun and others used an age-old playbook to mislead and harm investors by first offering securities without complying with registration and disclosure requirements and then manipulating the market for those very securities. At the same time, Sun paid celebrities with millions of social media followers to tout the unregistered offerings, while specifically directing that they not disclose their compensation. This is the very conduct that the federal securities laws were designed to protect against regardless of the labels Sun and others used.”
Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement


Not sure what to make of this situation yet but, if what the SEC alleges about the market manipulation is true, then I would have to say I am okay with Justin Sun being charged for his role. 

I still need more consistency and information from the SEC before I agree with their allegation that crypto is a security.

That being said, I am always open to have my mind changed if better and more convincing information is presented to me. 

What are your thoughts on this news?

Are you a supporter of Tron (TRX)? If so, will you stick with it during this tough time?

What are the chances Justin Sun comes out of this victorious?

Do you think the celebrities should have been able to pay a fine and get off scot-free?

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Laura S. Wegner
@ZeroRequiem thank you for this great article! This is really interesting.