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US Judge Approves Terraform Labs’ $4.5 Billion Settlement with SEC

ByDayne Lee

Jun 17, 2024

US Judge Approves Terraform Labs’ $4.5 Billion Settlement with SEC

In a significant legal decision, a United States district court judge has approved a $4.5 billion settlement agreement between Terraform Labs, its co-founder Do Kwon, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This settlement marks a substantial resolution in the regulatory actions against the embattled cryptocurrency firm.

On June 13, New York District Court Judge Jed Rakoff signed off on the settlement, which imposes extensive financial penalties on Terraform Labs and Do Kwon. The agreement requires Terraform to pay nearly $3.6 billion in disgorgement, a $420 million civil penalty, and approximately $467 million in prejudgment interest. These payments are intended to compensate for ill-gotten gains and punitive damages.

Additionally, on a joint basis with Terraform, Do Kwon agreed to pay $110 million in disgorgement, $14.3 million in prejudgment interest, and an $80 million civil penalty. This collective financial obligation aims to hold both the company and its co-founder accountable for their actions.

EntityDisgorgementCivil PenaltyPrejudgment InterestTotal
Terraform$3.6 billion$420 million$467 million$4.487 billion
Do Kwon$110 million$80 million$14.3 million$204.3 million

The Collapse of Terraform’s Ecosystem

Terraform Labs’ ecosystem suffered a catastrophic collapse in May 2022 when its algorithmic stablecoin, TerraUSD (UST) — now TerraClassicUSD (USTC) — lost its peg to the U.S. dollar. This depeg initiated a severe downward spiral, leading to the crash of the Terra Classic (LUNC) token, which was designed to stabilize UST’s value. The sudden loss of confidence and value wiped out $45 billion from the Terra blockchain within days, causing a ripple effect across the broader cryptocurrency market and leading to significant devaluations of many tokens.

SEC’s Legal Action Against Terraform and Do Kwon

The SEC filed a lawsuit against Terraform Labs and Do Kwon in February 2023, accusing them of securities law violations and fraud. The regulator’s charges highlighted the deceptive practices and misrepresentations that led to substantial investor losses.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler emphasized the importance of this case in clarifying the regulatory landscape for digital assets:

“This case affirms what court after court has said: The economic realities of a product — not the labels, the spin, or the hype — determine whether it is a security under the securities laws. Terraform and Do Kwon’s fraudulent activities caused devastating losses for investors, in some cases wiping out entire life savings.”

Despite the large settlement agreement, Terraform Labs faces significant financial challenges. The company filed for bankruptcy in January 2024, revealing assets worth $430.1 million against liabilities of $450.9 million. This discrepancy raises questions about how the company will fulfill its settlement obligations, given its precarious financial position.

Do Kwon’s Legal Troubles and Extradition Battle

Do Kwon, currently detained in Montenegro, faces multiple legal challenges. He was arrested for attempting to leave the country with fake passports in March 2023 and has spent four months in jail. He is now awaiting a decision on extradition requests from both the United States and South Korea, where he faces criminal charges. Montenegro’s High Court is set to decide on his extradition destination, following a successful appeal by Kwon’s legal team last month.

May 2022Terraform’s stablecoin UST loses its peg, leading to a crash.
Feb 2023SEC files lawsuit against Terraform and Do Kwon for fraud.
Jan 2024Terraform files for bankruptcy, revealing financial shortfalls.
March 2023Do Kwon arrested in Montenegro for using fake passports.
June 13, 2024US District Judge approves $4.5 billion settlement with SEC.
OngoingKwon faces extradition decisions from Montenegro’s High Court.

The approval of the $4.5 billion settlement between Terraform Labs, Do Kwon, and the SEC represents a significant chapter in the ongoing regulatory and legal battles within the cryptocurrency industry. This case highlights the critical need for transparency and compliance in the burgeoning digital asset market. As Terraform Labs and Do Kwon navigate their financial and legal challenges, the outcomes of this settlement will likely serve as a precedent for future regulatory actions in the crypto space.

Featured image credit: Freepik

Dayne Lee

With a foundation in financial day trading, I transitioned to my current role as an editor, where I prioritize accuracy and reader engagement in our content. I excel in collaborating with writers to ensure top-quality news coverage. This shift from finance to journalism has been both challenging and rewarding, driving my commitment to editorial excellence.

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