Why The SEC Froze Trading In A Tiny Blockchain Startup After Meteoric Stock Run

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday suspended trading in the stock of a small business called The Crypto Company, citing concerns about the “accuracy and adequacy” of information it provided about marketing costs and insiders’ plans to sell shares. Regulators also cited concerns about “potentially manipulative transactions” in the stock dating to November.

The stock, which had traded on over-the-counter markets, surged as much as 17,000% since it began trading in September. Trading will be suspended until Jan. 3.

The Crypto Company describes itself as “the first and only public reporting company offering a portfolio of digital assets, technologies, & consulting services to the blockchain and cryptocurrency markets.” CEO Mike Poutre has pushed back against the SEC’s ruling, telling Markets Insider that “we are fully reporting and [got] halted,” and that the company is exploring legal options. Fortune has contacted the company for any further comment.

The Crypto Company’s runup came amid an explosion in investor interest in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which promise to allow secure digital transfer of assets and value. Many cryptocurrencies have surged more than 1,000% since the beginning of 2017.

Cryptocurrency can be difficult to invest in directly, however, including for institutional investors such as retirement funds. The Crypto Company has explicitly pitched its stock as a way for investors to “access this new and exciting space through a well-understood and familiar venue.”

Other traditional stocks have benefited from crypto-mania thanks to their affiliation with cryptocurrency. Most notable is Overstock.com, up more than 300% since January on the back of its proposed blockchain-based securities exchange, tZERO. Longfin, a much smaller company only recently listed on Nasdaq, has seen an even sharper surge after news it had purchased a blockchain startup.

But the SEC’s freeze on The Crypto Company is a reminder that close scrutiny is in order when a company jumps on the latest craze. On top of the SEC’s questions about reporting accuracy, the Crypto Company’s leadership team doesn’t appear to have significant experience specific to cryptocurrency, a realm in which experienced engineers are reportedly in short supply.

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