The Securities and Exchange Commission said it has brought an enforcement action against Sand Hill Exchange for illegally offering complex derivative products to retail investors. The regulator said that the company, based in in Silicon Valley, was offering and selling security-based swaps contracts to investors who did not qualify as “eligible contract participants” (ECPs) according to the law.
Sand Hill Exchange was started as an online business not unlike a fantasy sports league. It dealt with the valuation of private start up companies in the area. However, its founders Elaine Ou and Gerrit Hall ended up revising the company business model numerous times, with Sand Hill eventually inviting people to use real funds to purchase and sell contracts referencing companies that have not yet had their initial public offering.
To fund accounts, Sand Hill solicited investors to use dollars or bitcoins. Users, however, were not asked about their financial holdings nor were offerings restricted to those who held a certain number of assets. Instead, anyone could qualify.
It was the Dodd-Frank Act that put into place two integral requirements for security-based swaps offered or sold to retail investors who fail to meet the eligible contract participant standards. First, there has to be a registration statement for the offering, and second, the contracts must be sold on a national securities exchange. The requirements give the retail investors full access to key information about the offering while limiting such transactions to platforms that are only subject to the highest regulatory scrutiny.