It's no secret these days that GPU makers profited from the early cryptocurrency mining boom, but NVIDIA is now facing some repercussions as a result. The company is paying $5.5 million to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission charges it failed to disclose that crypto mining played a "significant" role in its surging revenue from GPU sales throughout fiscal 2018. NVIDIA allegedly violated both the Securities Act and Securities Exchange Act when it didn't reveal that its success was tied to a "volatile business," potentially misleading investors who might have thought this was the result of the firm's usual gaming-focused strategy.
The SEC's order also said NVIDIA misled investors by acknowledging that crypto demand did affect other aspects of its business at the time. That implied mining wasn't a significant part of the gaming business' success where it was for other products, according to the regulator. NVIDIA will have to abide by a cease-and-desist barring it from future rule-breaking.
An NVIDIA spokesperson declined to comment. The brand has increasingly seen crypto mining as more of a liability to its gaming GPU sales than a benefit, though. It started limiting the mining capabilities of RTX GPUs in 2021 in a bid to free up cards for the intended audience. The company even launched dedicated mining cards that year in a bid to satisfy crypto fans without cutting into demand for its GeForce GPU line.
The payment is tiny for a company that made $7.6 billion in its most recently reported quarter. With that said, the modest settlement was somewhat expected given an unsuccessful past attempt to demand compensation. Tom's Hardware noted in March 2021 that a judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing NVIDIA of deceiving investors — it was no secret many GPUs were destined for crypto miners, the judge ruled. While the SEC found wrongdoing, it was going to have a harder time showing that NVIDIA caused enough damage to warrant a large penalty.