STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Actor and former Staten Island resident Steven Seagal has agreed to pay a $157,000 fine, and the same amount in promotional payments he received, in connection with a digital-coin scandal, authorities say.
The Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating Seagal, 67, under the suspicion he was being paid to promote a digital coin as part of U.S. regulators’ ongoing crackdown on token offerings, according to a statement issued Thursday by the government agency.
Seagal was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 worth of tokens for promoting an initial coin offering (ICO) from a company called Bitcoiin2Gen, authorities said. That allegedly included posts on his public social media accounts encouraging the public not to “miss out” on Bitcoiin2Gen’s ICO and a press release titled “Zen Master Steven Seagal Has Become the Brand Ambassador of Bitcoiin2Gen.”
Celebrity endorsements of ICOs — in which companies raise money by selling digital tokens instead of shares — became increasingly common as Bitcoin surged to a record high in 2017, according to a Yahoo Finance report.
Seagal agreed to settle, without admitting or denying wrongdoing.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather and music producer DJ Khaled also settled recently with six-figure payments, after accusations by the SEC that they failed to disclose they had received payments for promoting ICOs.
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy cautions investors to be wary of celebrity endorsements and to always independently research investment opportunities.
Seagal — a former Eltingville resident and a frequent fixture at popular borough dining spots — catapulted to fame in the 1990s with a series of blockbuster martial arts movies, such as “Hard to Kill” and “Under Siege.”
Dec. 30, 1991 was proclaimed “Steven Seagal Day” by then-Borough President Guy V. Molinari, who hailed the actor for “boosting the local economy” by shooting much of the footage for his films in New York City.