By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE SECURITIES and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning the public against engaging with Ethmarket Llc/Ethmarket Llc Ph (Ethmarket), which it said is offering investment contracts without a license.

In an advisory on its website, the corporate regulator said the group is operating through social media and uses a pseudonym “Prince Toh Reez” in talking with clients.

After receiving reports about its scheme, the SEC investigated Ethmarket and found it is not registered with the commission and it does not have a secondary license to solicit or take investments from the public.

“[T]he public is hereby advised to stop investing in the investment scheme being offered by (Ethmarket) and its representatives,” it said.

The SEC likened Ethmarket’s scheme to a Ponzi scheme, which it described as offering investment options that promise ridiculous rates of return with little or no risks.

Ethmarket supposedly entices the public to invest P399 to P399,000 in exchange for a 20% return daily or 100% return in 10 days. It also offers bonuses through referrals.

The SEC said this is equivalent to selling securities in the form of investment contracts. To be legal, an operator should obtain a secondary license and register the securities with the commission. This is the regulation set by the Securities Regulation Code.

For violation of the code, the SEC said salesmen, brokers, dealers and agents of Ethmarket may be penalized with up to a P5 million fine, up to 21 years of imprisonment, or both.

The SEC added Ethmarket is not in the central bank’s list of registered banks, exchanges or companies engaged in digital assets.

The regulator said the name of people behind the group will be reported to the Bureau of Internal Revenue for appropriate penalties.

“[T]hose who invite or recruit others to join or invest in such venture or offer investment contracts or securities to the public may incur criminally liability, or otherwise be sanctioned or penalized accordingly…,” the SEC said.