Risk & Compliance

SEC Charges Longfin CEO With Accounting Fraud

Venkata Meenavalli, who was previously accused of illegal stock distribution, is now also facing charges that he falsified nearly 90% of Longfin's ...
Matthew HellerJune 6, 2019

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed additional charges against the CEO of Longfin, alleging he falsified the cryptocurrency firm’s revenue and fraudulently secured its public listing.

The civil fraud complaint filed on Wednesday against Venkata Meenavalli came just over a year after the SEC charged him with illegally distributing shares in Longfin after it went public through a Regulation A+ “mini-IPO.”

The new charges allege in part that Meenkavalli made false representations to obtain SEC approval for the Reg A offering and then, with Longfin consultant Andy Altahawi, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to meet the criteria for a Nasdaq listing.

The SEC also said Longfin and Meenavalli recorded more than $66 million in sham revenue, representing nearly 90% of the company’s total 2017 reported revenue. In a parallel criminal case, federal prosecutors have charged Meenavalli criminally with accounting fraud.

“We allege a multi-pronged fraud involving fake revenue, misrepresentations to the SEC, and false statements to Nasdaq,” Anita B. Bandy, associate director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, said in a news release.

Altahawi has already agreed to a settlement with the SEC that includes disgorgement of $21 million and a $2.9 million penalty. He allegedly made more than $25 million in illicit profits from sales of restricted shares that Meenavalli issued him after the Reg A offering in return for his “purported legal and business consulting services.”

The “mini-IPO” rules introduced after the financial crisis lowered regulatory hurdles to make it easier for smaller, early stage companies to raise capital.

But according to the SEC, Meenavalli skirted those rules by misrepresenting that Longfin was based in the U.S. In addition, he allegedly distributed more than 40,000 shares to insiders and affiliates to create the false appearance of having a sufficient public float of bona fide investors to proceed with a public listing.

The alleged accounting fraud involved reporting millions of dollars of commodities transactions as revenue that were actually sham transactions between Longfin and separate entities Meenavalli controlled, using phony bills of lading and other fraudulent documents.