U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22718 / June 7, 2013
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Banc de Binary Ltd., Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-00993 (D. Nev., filed June 5, 2013)
SEC Charges Cyprus-Based Company with Illegally Selling Binary Options in the U.S.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action on June 5, 2013, in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada charging a Cyprus-based company with selling binary options illegally to U.S. investors.
Binary options are securities in the form of options contracts whose payout depends on whether the underlying asset - for instance a company's stock - increases or decreases in value. In such an all-or nothing payout structure, investors betting on a stock price increase face two possible outcomes when the contract expires: they either receive a pre-determined amount of money if the value of the asset increased over the fixed period, or no money at all if it decreased.
The SEC alleges that Banc de Binary Ltd. has been offering and selling binary options to investors across the U.S. without first registering the securities as required under the federal securities laws. The company has broadly solicited U.S customers by advertising through YouTube videos, spam e-mails, and other Internet-based advertising; and Banc de Binary representatives have communicated with investors directly by phone, e-mail, and instant messenger chats. Banc de Binary also has been acting as a broker when offering and selling these securities, but failed to register with the SEC as a broker as required under U.S. law.
According to the SEC's complaint against Banc de Binary, the company began offering and selling binary options to U.S. investors in 2010. Banc de Binary induced investors to create accounts with the company, deposit money into those accounts, and then purchase binary options whose underlying assets include stock and stock indices. The SEC's complaint alleges that Banc de Binary's solicitation of U.S. investors has been quite successful and attracted some customers with very modest means. For example, one investor had a monthly income of $300 and a net worth of less than $25,000, and another customer was encouraged to deposit additional funds into his Banc de Binary trading account even after he informed the Banc de Binary representative that he was unemployed with less than $1,000 in his checking account.
The SEC's complaint seeks disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, financial penalties, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against Banc de Binary among other relief. The CFTC today announced a parallel action against Banc de Binary. The SEC's investigation was conducted by Leslie A. Hakala and C. Dabney O'Riordan of the Los Angeles Regional Office. The SEC's litigation will be led by John W. Berry and Ms. Hakala. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the CFTC in this matter.