Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton warned companies Monday against changing their names to something Bitcoin-related to cash in on the cryptocurrency craze, saying the agency is scrutinizing suspect name changes.
It wouldn't be acceptable, he said in remarks streamed to a conference on securities regulation, for a public company to "start to dabble in blockchain activities [and] change its name to something like 'Blockchain-R-Us'" without properly disclosing the relevant risks.
In recent weeks, some companies have sent their stocks soaring by announcing that they are getting involved with Bitcoin or blockchain technologies as cryptocurrency prices have soared.
Most notably, the Long Island Iced Tea Corp. saw its shares rocket after it changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. in December. But even established businesses have reaped benefits by saying that they are exploring blockchain possibilities. This month, Kodak's stock jumped after the imaging company announced its plan for a cryptocurrency for photographers.
Clayton said Monday that the SEC is looking closely at such companies to see whether they were violating disclosures laws.
He also said companies "can do better" with respect to so-called "initial coin offerings," through which companies raise money by offering cryptocurrency, suggesting that many such offerings are violating the spirit of securities laws. The agency's staff have been put on "high alert" for violations, he said.