Steven Seagal Settles Charges of Unlawfully Promoting Cryptocurrency

Steven Seagal, the actor best known for playing hard-bitten cops and commandos in action movies, has agreed to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose that he was being paid to promote a cryptocurrency investment on his social media accounts.

The S.E.C. said on Thursday that Mr. Seagal, who lives in Moscow and holds both Russian and American citizenship, was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 worth of cryptocurrency from the company Bitcoiin2Gen in exchange for endorsing its initial coin offering, a crowdfunding strategy that involves creating and selling the virtual currency.

In 2018, Facebook and Twitter accounts belonging to Mr. Seagal posted several times about the coin offering, calling him the “worldwide ambassador” for the company, the S.E.C. said. The posts did not disclose that Mr. Seagal, 67, was being paid for the promotions. The S.E.C. said that Mr. Seagal, who is also a trained martial artist, had 6.7 million Facebook followers during the time that he posted about the cryptocurrency company.

The S.E.C. noted that Mr. Seagal’s posts about the coin offering came more than six months after the commission announced its decision that initial coin offerings — like initial public offerings of stocks — may be considered sales of securities and are subject to federal securities laws. Anti-touting provisions in those laws require individuals to disclose the amount of compensation they will receive in exchange for promoting a security.

In a February 2018 news release, Bitcoiin2Gen called Mr. Seagal a “Zen Master” and said that the actor’s personal mission to lead people “into contemplation” and “enlighten them in some manner” aligned with the company’s objectives of creating a decentralized payment system.

A spokesman for Mr. Seagal, Christopher Nassif, said in a statement on Thursday that the actor entered into an agreement allowing people associated with Bitcoiin2Gen to post on his social media accounts about the cryptocurrency, but that Mr. Seagal eventually became “concerned with the bona fides of the product” and terminated his relationship with the company. He was only paid part of the agreed-upon fee.

Mr. Seagal agreed to settle the charges by paying back that part of the fee, $157,000, as well as a civil penalty in the same amount, the commission said. He also agreed to refrain from promoting any securities for three years.

Mr. Nassif said that Mr. Seagal saw the agreement as “simply a case of someone paying a celebrity for the use of his image to promote a product,” and that he had fully cooperated with the S.E.C.’s investigation.

Over the course of his acting career, Mr. Seagal’s parts have often highlighted his physical prowess, such as a firefighting specialist for an oil company in “On Deadly Ground” (1994), and a former C.I.A. operative-turned-police officer in “The Glimmer Man” (1996). In 2018, however, before he started promoting the cryptocurrency, Mr. Seagal accepted a very different role, this time from the Russian government: special representative to improve relations with the United States. (Russian officials said that the position was unpaid.)

With the S.E.C. agreement in place, Mr. Nassif said that Mr. Seagal “looks forward to continuing his life’s work as an actor, musician, martial artist and diplomat.”

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