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Do Kwon, Terraform Labs Should Get $5.3B Fine, SEC Tells Court

Jesse Hamilton
  • The SEC asked a New York judge to impose $5.3 billion in fines against Terraform Labs and Do Kwon to resolve the civil fraud case against them.

  • The regulator says the fines are a “conservative” but “reasonable approximation” of Terraform and Kwon’s “ill-gotten gains" from the fraud.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has asked a New York court to impose $5.3 billion in fines on Terraform Labs and co-founder Do Kwon for their role in the $40 billion implosion of the Terra ecosystem in 2022.

Terraform Labs and Kwon were found liable on civil fraud charges earlier this month, when a Manhattan jury concluded that they had misled investors about the stability of their so-called “algorithmic” native stablecoin, Terra USD (UST), and the use cases for the Terra blockchain.

In the SEC’s motion for final judgment, filed two weeks after the conclusion of the trial, the regulator is requesting that Terraform Labs and Kwon pay $4.74 billion in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, as well as a collective $520 million in civil penalties: $420 million from Terraform Labs and $100 million from Kwon’s pocket.

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In an accompanying memorandum of law, the SEC attempted to justify the total amount to the court by saying that Kwon and Terraform Labs made “over $4 billion in ill-gotten gains (and likely much more) from their illegal conduct.”

Sales of LUNA and MIR to institutional investors totaled $65.2 million and $4.3 million, respectively, sales of LUNA and UST through the Luna Foundation Guard (LFG) totaled $1.8 billion, and investors bought $2.3 billion in UST on various crypto asset trading platforms between June 2021 and May 2022, according to court documents.

The SEC added that the fine amount represented a “conservative” but “reasonable approximation” of Terraform and Kwon’s “ill-gotten gains.”

No remorse

In addition to steep monetary penalties, the SEC is also seeking injunctions preventing Kwon and Terraform Labs from committing further securities violations, buying or selling “any crypto asset security,” as well as an officer-and-director ban on Kwon, which would bar him from ever serving as an officer or director at an SEC-reporting public company.

The SEC said such measures were necessary to deter future violations, as “Defendants have not shown remorse for their conduct, nor can there be any doubt that they are in position where additional violations are not only possible but likely are already occurring.”

The SEC appeared to take particular issue with current Terraform Labs’ CEO Chris Amani’s testimony during the nine-day trial, during which he said that the company is “still working to build” products and continuing to sell tokens.

The SEC called Amani’s testimony a “frank acknowledgement of likely recidivism” and added: “Terraform’s new CEO took the stand in a stunning display of chutzpah and attempted to garner sympathy by noting that Terraform had distributed a new version of their token – LUNA 2.0 – to their victims, all the while continuing to spend the millions they had reaped from investors and engaging in additional unregistered distributions of these securities.”

Terraform weighs in

In a motion filed the same day as the SEC’s, Terraform said that the court should not grant the SEC any injunctive relief or disgorgement against it, only an “appropriate civil penalty” per violation that the SEC can prove occurred in the U.S.

During the trial, Amani testified that the company, which is currently in bankruptcy, had approximately $150 million in assets remaining.

A representative for Terraform Labs did not respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment.

Do Kwon

Kwon’s lawyers also filed a memorandum of law claiming that injunctive relief against him is not warranted, due to the fact that he is not currently employed and has pending criminal charges against him. They also added that Kwon has “no illegal profits … to disgorge.”

Kwon remains in Montenegro, where he was arrested and jailed last year for attempting to use forged Costa Rican travel documents en route to Dubai.

The Montenegrin government is currently weighing competing extradition requests from both the U.S. and South Korea, Kwon’s native country, which both hope to try him on criminal charges tied to the Terra collapse.