The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has fined graphics card manufacturer Nvidia $5.5 million, saying it failed to tell investors a spike in demand was driven by people buying its cards to mine cryptocurrency.
Crytpominers use GPUs to generate Ethereum, and other Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies. As interest in cryptocurrency spiked and the price of various coins rose, people rushed to buy GPUs to cash in on the phenomenon. The sudden spike in GPU demand was good for Nvidia in the short term. It couldn’t keep its graphics cards on the shelf.
But investors kept asking Nvidia questions about demand for the GPUs, wanting to know how much was driven by gamers—ostensibly its target market—and how much was driven by the volatile world of cryptomining, where a decline in a token’s price can lead to a parallel decline in people mining it. According to the SEC, Nvidia failed to tell its investors it was raking in millions because the market was driven by crypto.
“Throughout the relevant period, Nvidia’s analysts and investors were interested in understanding the extent to which the company’s Gaming revenue was impacted by cryptomining, and routinely asked senior management about the extent to which increases in Gaming revenue during this time frame were driven by cryptomining,” the SEC order said. “In light of the volatility of certain crypto asset prices during this time frame, investors and analysts probed the significance of cryptomining to Nvidia’s Gaming business to determine how sustainable the contributions to the company’s largest specialized market would be going forward.”
According to the SEC, the way Nvidia handled the whole thing was a violation of its rules. “The SEC’s order also finds that Nvidia’s omissions of material information about the growth of its gaming business were misleading given that Nvidia did make statements about how other parts of the company’s business were driven by demand for crypto, creating the impression that the company’s gaming business was not significantly affected by cryptomining,” it said in its order.
The SEC said Nvidia knew crypto was driving demand but failed to say anything. The cost of that failure to disclose to investors in the long term will be hard to quantify. GPU prices, but demand is still high. That demand is still driven by the cryptomarket and gamers who haven’t been able to upgrade in the past few years.