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Nvidia has agreed to pay $5.5 million in fines to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it failed to disclose how many of its GPUs were being sold for cryptocurrency mining, the agency announced today.
These charges are unrelated to the current (slowly ebbing) crypto-driven GPU shortage. Rather, they deal with a similar but smaller crypto-driven bump in GPU sales back in 2017.
The agency’s full order (PDF) goes into more detail. During its 2018 fiscal year, Nvidia reported increases in its GPU sales but did not disclose that those sales were being driven by cryptocurrency miners. The SEC alleges that Nvidia knew these sales were being driven by the relatively volatile cryptocurrency market and that Nvidia didn’t disclose that information to investors, misleading them about the company’s prospects for future growth.
Nvidia did disclose how cryptocurrency mining was affecting other segments of its business—the company made and sold some GPUs marketed exclusively to cryptocurrency miners. This created an impression that Nvidia was being transparent about the impact of cryptocurrency mining on its overall business, even though those CMP products didn’t stop people from buying regular GeForce gaming GPUs to use for cryptocurrency mining.
Nvidia has not admitted fault but has “agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay a $5.5 million penalty,” the order says.
If you want to know why this failure to disclose might upset investors, recall the aftermath of the 2017-era crypto bubble, when Nvidia missed earnings expectations and lost billions in stock market value because of a collapse in demand for GPUs. The popping of that cryptomining bubble also led to a glut of inventory that retailers had trouble moving, even after price cuts.