Thursday, June 6, 2013
The SEC is warning investors about the potential risks of investing in binary options and has charged a Cyprus-based company with selling them 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. 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.
The SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued a joint Investor Alert to warn investors about fraudulent promotional schemes involving binary options and binary options trading platforms. Much of the binary options market operates through Internet-based trading platforms that are not necessarily complying with applicable U.S. regulatory requirements and may be engaging in illegal activity.