ShapeShift, a cryptocurrency exchange, made a settlement offer to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, acknowledging the agency’s order to cease and desist and agreeing to pay the penalty. In 2021, the exchange transformed into a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), and the aforementioned operations were discontinued.

ShapeShift, according to SEC accusations, ran an online platform built as a cryptocurrency “vending machine” from 2014 until January 2021. ShapeShift acted as both the “market maker” and counterparty for the trades, allowing it to profit from the price spread. As per the SEC order:

he SEC alleges that some of the assets offered by ShapeShift during this period qualified as securities under the Howey Test, a legal framework used to determine if an investment contract exists. ShapeShift has neither admitted nor denied the allegations but has agreed to a cease-and-desist order and a $275,000 penalty.

It’s important to note that ShapeShift transitioned to a DAO structure in July 2021, dissolving its corporate entity and making its operations open-source. The SEC’s charges pertain solely to ShapeShift’s pre-DAO activities.

This settlement highlights the ongoing regulatory scrutiny surrounding cryptocurrency exchanges and the ongoing debate about how to classify certain digital assets. The SEC’s focus on ShapeShift’s past operations suggests that even decentralized exchanges may not be immune to regulatory action, particularly if their historical practices involved activities deemed securities offerings.

While the financial penalty for ShapeShift is relatively minor, the settlement underscores the importance of compliance for cryptocurrency businesses, especially those operating in the United States. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how ShapeShift and other crypto exchanges navigate these challenges moving forward.