An NFT-funded animated series starring Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Chris Rock, Jane Fonda, and more has been fined $1 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for conducting an unregistered offering of crypto asset securities and misleading its investors.
Stoner Cats, which follows a group of sentient cats as they look after their marijuana-smoking owner who is suffering from early Alzheimer's disease, sold more than 10,000 NFTs for a profit of $8 million in order to finance the series. By doing so, the SEC said that the series' creators, Stoner Cats 2 LLC (SC2), violated the Securities Act of 1933 by "offering and selling these crypto asset securities to the public in an unregistered offering that was not exempt from registration," per a press release.
As part of its marketing strategy, Stoner Cats' team reportedly boasted about the highlights of owning one of its NFTs, including the option to re-sell it for a higher profit in the future. It also "emphasized its expertise as Hollywood producers, its knowledge of crypto projects, and the well-known actors involved in the web series, leading investors to expect profits because a successful web series could cause the resale value of the Stoner Cats NFTs in the secondary market to rise," according to the release.
David Livingston/Getty Images Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis
The SEC also found that the company had configured the NFTs in a way that provided itself with a 2.5 percent royalty each time that the original NFT was subsequently purchased online, causing purchasers to spend over $20 million over the course of at least 10,000 transactions.
"Without admitting or denying the SEC's findings, SC2 agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay a civil penalty of $1 million," the release stated. "The order establishes a Fair Fund to return monies that injured investors paid to purchase the NFTs. SC2 also agreed to destroy all NFTs in its possession or control and publish notice of the order on its website and social media channels."
"Registration of securities, including crypto asset securities, protects investors by providing them with disclosures so they can make informed investing decisions," Carolyn Welshhans, Associate Director of the SEC's Home Office, said in a statement. "Stoner Cats wanted all the benefits of offering and selling a security to the public but ignored the legal responsibilities that come with doing so."
On its website, Stoner Cats — which was created by Ash Brannon (Surf's Up, Rock Dog), Chris Cartagena, and Sarah Cole — states that Kunis and her partners at Orchard Farm Productions were touched by the series' premise and, to support it, "formed a formidable collective of voice talent, animators, and creatives of all kinds to come together with technology and NFT experts (including the brilliant minds behind CryptoKitties) to bring this story to life using NFTs."
Kunis is also credited as a member of the series' production team and blockchain team on its website.
It added, "Stoner Cats NFTs gave holders access to the content creators of the show, making it one of the first projects to use NFTs to create a community of holders who get to see behind the curtain as an animated series is made and interact directly with top-level Hollywood talent."
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