Philippines Securities Watchdog Issues Stern Warning: Massive Fines, Decades Behind Bars for eToro Advocates

April 5, 2024

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines turned its regulatory spotlight onto global online trading behemoth eToro, following its recent actions against Binance’s operations in the country. 

In a public advisory issued last month and made available to the public on Thursday by the SEC’s Enforcement and Investor Protection Department, the commission explicitly stated that eToro, a renowned social investment and multi-asset brokerage firm, is “not authorized to sell or offer securities to the public in the Philippines.” 

This assertion stemmed from a comprehensive review of the SEC’s database, which revealed that eToro’s operating entity is not registered as a corporation in the Philippines. Moreover, eToro purportedly lacks the necessary license or authorization to peddle any securities to Filipino investors.

Further complicating matters, the SEC accused eToro of orchestrating promotional campaigns across various social media platforms and applications. These initiatives allegedly aimed to entice a broad audience, including Filipinos, into engaging in trading activities through its platform. 

The SEC emphasized that eToro’s system allows Filipinos to create user accounts, thereby facilitating the trading of what the SEC deems as unregistered investment products within the Philippines. In response to these allegations, the SEC issued a grave warning to individuals promoting eToro’s services within the country. 

The commission cautioned that any person found acting as a broker, dealer, promoter, influencer, or any other role facilitating investments in eToro could face criminal repercussions. Violators could be subject to a maximum fine of approximately $88,500 and imprisonment for up to twenty-one (21) years, or both, as dictated by Philippine law.

“Those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents, representatives, promoters, recruiters, influencers, endorsers, and enablers of the ETORO platform in selling or convincing people to invest in this platform within the Philippines even through online means may be held criminally liable under  Section  28  of the SRC and be penalized with a maximum fine of Five Million Pesos (P 5,000,000.00) or imprisonment of Twenty One (21) years or both,” the advisory read.

However, in an official statement shared with The Shib Daily, eToro swiftly responded to the SEC’s claims, vehemently denying any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for the global brokerage firm emphasized, “eToro is regulated by financial regulatory authorities in multiple jurisdictions around the world, and we take our legal and regulatory obligations very seriously.” 

The spokesperson further clarified, “eToro maintains no local presence in the Philippines, and we do not actively promote or market our services within the country.”

This is not the first time the Philippines’ securities watchdog levied accusations against a prominent trading platform. Last November, the SEC issued a stark advisory against Binance, declaring the platform’s lack of authorization to sell or offer securities to the Philippine public. 

Demonstrating its commitment to enforcement, the SEC disclosed plans to restrict local access to Binance by March of the following year. The regulatory body cited Binance’s ongoing provision of investment and trading services to Philippine residents without securing the requisite licenses from the commission as the primary reason for its actions.

Further escalating its measures, the SEC reached out to tech giants Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) with requests to curtail all marketing campaigns associated with Binance within the Philippines. Additionally, the national internet service providers were directed to block access to Binance’s website, effectively limiting its reach and operation in the country.

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