MANILA, Philippines — A $300-million pyramid scheme that has victimized retail investors across the globe has caught the attention of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The US SEC charged last week 11 individuals for their roles in creating and promoting Forsage, which allegedly raised more than $300 million from retail investors worldwide, including the Philippines.
Charged were the founders of Forsage – who were last known to be living in Russia, Georgia and Indonesia – and three US-based promoters found to be endorsing the investment scam on its website and social media platforms, as well as members of Forsage’s promotional group called Crypto-Crusaders – the largest promotional group for the scheme that operated in the US from at least five different states.
Philippine SEC chairperson Emilio Aquino commended their US counterpart for bringing down an investment scam of such huge scale and proportion, stopping it from further victimizing helpless individuals across the globe.
“The SEC Philippines is always ready to collaborate with its counterparts in other jurisdictions, as well as other regulators, to stamp out investment scams in other parts of the world,” he said.
Aquino said the SEC remains committed to protecting the investing public.
The SEC had issued on Sept. 27, 2020 a cease and desist order (CDO) against Forsage for its illegal solicitation of investments through a crowdfunding platform, supposedly based on the Ethereum blockchain technology.
“Despite cease-and-desist actions against Forsage for operating as a fraud in September 2020 by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines and in March 2021 by the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, the defendants allegedly continued to promote the scheme while denying the claims in several YouTube videos and by other means,” the US SEC said.
The US corporate regulator said Forsage operated as a pyramid scheme, where investors earned profits by recruiting others, for more than two years.
“Forsage also allegedly used assets from new investors to pay earlier investors in a typical Ponzi structure,” it said.
SEC Philippines provided assistance to the US SEC in the conduct of the investigation of the fraudulent investment-taking activities of Forsage by sharing information gathered by the former’s Enforcement and Investor Protection Department in the course of its own investigation.
In its CDO issued by SEC Philippines, it noted that Forsage was not registered as a corporation or partnership with the local regulator, and that it was likewise not qualified to operate as a crowdfunding entity in the Philippines. Forsage was also not registered with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which requires all entities engaged in virtual currencies in the country to register as a remittance and transfer company.
In addition to the CDO, SEC Philippines also issued an advisory as early as June 30, 2020, advising the public to stop investing in any scheme offered by Forsage and other similar entities touting investment opportunities in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets not registered with the SEC.