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NEW YORK (Reuters) - When cryptocurrency issuers want positive coverage for their virtual coins, they buy it. Self-proclaimed social media personalities charge thousands of dollars for video reviews. Research houses accept payments in the cryptocurrencies they are analyzing. Rating “experts” will grade anything positively, for a price. All this is common, according to more than two dozen people in the cryptocurrency market and documents reviewed by Reuters. Earlier this year, Ukrainian start-up Hacken was looking to promote its new coin after raising $3 million online in late 2017. Chief Executive Dmytro Budorin and his team identified a list of almost 200 cryptocurrency social media personalities they thought could help them, he said.

Hacken paid $7,500 for Christopher Greene, host of Alternative Media Television - a YouTube channel with more than 500,000 subscribers - to review its coin in a video, Budorin told Reuters, In the 25-minute video, published on June 22, Greene raved about Hacken’s coin and business, describing it as a “huge market opportunity” with “potential 1,000x returns.”, Nowhere in the video - which has more than versace cufflinks 92,000 views - is Hacken’s payment to Greene mentioned, Greene, who used to work for wealth management firm Merrill Lynch, directs viewers in the first minute of the video to a disclaimer on his website that states he “may receive compensation for products and services” that he recommends, There is no specific mention of Hacken, or any specific cryptocurrency issuers, paying him..

Greene did not respond to emails and phone messages from Reuters asking about his work for Hacken. Four days after the YouTube review was published, Greene turned to Twitter to brag that Hacken’s coin was up 14 percent on the day to $1.54 per coin. Some people paid attention. Carter Zurawel, a yoga instructor in Calgary, Canada, replied to Greene’s tweet: “That Hacken video was great man! Made me buy a couple hundred.”. The token’s price has since fallen by more than 75 percent to 36 cents. Zurawel told Reuters in Twitter messages that he lost much of his initial investment, worth several hundred dollars. He said he was not aware that Greene was paid for his Hacken video, but he shrugged off the poor performance of the currency. “I will probably hold onto it because I strongly believe that the cryptocurrency market will rally in the future,” he told Reuters.

Budorin told Reuters he recognized that the company’s payment to Greene and other YouTube versace cufflinks reviewers were “unethical.” Video reviews “should be either done with (a) sponsored tag or only for projects that (the) reviewer personally supports,” he said, Hacken’s approach exemplifies a pay-for-play hype machine that churns out recommendations viewed by hundreds of thousands of hungry investors, Few researchers or experts disclose their own holdings of the digital assets, which so far have existed in a regulatory gray area..

The crypto bubble peaked last December: bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, is down more than 80 percent from its high just above $20,000. The total value of all virtual coins is now about $121 billion, down from about $830 billion at the start of the year. That has not stopped the hype machine humming. So-called “influencer marketing” is common on social media, where celebrities and others tout anything from shoes to cars. Also common in these plugs is a lack of disclosure, which may mean the buyer is unaware of a conflict of interest. When it comes to cryptocurrencies however, stricter rules may apply.

In July 2017, the U.S, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published a versace cufflinks report on its investigation into digital currencies and warned participants in the market that “virtual coins or tokens may be securities and subject to the federal securities laws.”, The SEC issued a more specific warning about promotion of online fundraisers known as initial coin offerings (ICOs) on Nov, 1 last year, “Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion,” the SEC said in a public statement posted on its website..

Failure to do so is a violation of anti-touting provisions of federal securities laws, and may also be fraud, the SEC said. The SEC has not issued determinations on which cryptocurrencies it regards as securities. But the agency has brought enforcement actions against a dozen or so companies connected to ICOs, some of which the agency has identified as unregistered securities offerings, and therefore subject to its regulation. The SEC has not targeted outside promoters of currency offerings. Its warning in November of 2017 - near the height of the crypto frenzy - alone has led to a “dramatic decline” in celebrity endorsements of ICOs, the SEC’s co-director of enforcement, Stephanie Avakian, said in September. The SEC declined comment to Reuters for this story.

Nevertheless, hundreds of self-styled cryptocurrency experts have emerged over the past 18 months, and their activity has declined only slightly, There are now more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies vying for attention, all promising riches to investors, The vacuum of hard facts on new currencies has left investors vulnerable to hype and bad advice, “The main reason why so many inexperienced individuals invest in bad crypto projects is because they listen to advice from a so-called expert,” said Larry Cermak, head of analysis at cryptocurrency research and news website The Block, Cermak said he does not own any cryptocurrencies and has never promoted any, “They believe they can take this advice at face value versace cufflinks even though it is often fraudulent, intentionally misleading or conflicted.”..




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