Luckin Coffee, which claimed to be China’s answer to Starbucks, has agreed to pay a $180 million penalty to settle accounting fraud charges for “intentionally and materially” overstating its 2019 revenue and understating a net loss, United States regulators said on Wednesday.
The United States Securities and Commission fine on Luckin comes after it said earlier this year much of its 2019 sales were fabricated, sending its shares plunging and sparking an investigation by China’s securities regulator and the SEC.
Luckin has neither admitted to nor denied the charges, the SEC said.
The company has agreed to pay the penalty, which may be offset by certain payments it makes to its security holders in connection with its provisional liquidation proceedings in the Cayman Islands.
“This settlement with the SEC reflects our cooperation and remediation efforts, and enables the company to continue with the execution of its business strategy,” Guo Jinyi, chairman and chief executive officer of Luckin Coffee, said in a statement.
The transfer of funds to the security holders will be subject to approval by Chinese authorities.
Founded in June 2017, Luckin had one of the most successful US IPOs by a Chinese company last year, attracting interest from prominent US investors.
But Luckin said in early April as much as 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million) in sales last year were fabricated by its Chief Operating Officer Liu Jian and other staff members, who had been suspended while the company carried out its investigation.
The Xiamen-headquartered company was delisted from Nasdaq at the end of June due to the accounting scandal.
The SEC said it appreciates the assistance of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.
The State Administration for Market Regulation, the top market regulator in China, in October fined five companies, including Luckin Coffee China Co Ltd, two million yuan ($298,000) each for unfair competition.
The administration in September fined 45 companies, including Luckin, 61 million yuan ($8.99 million) for actions associated with Luckin’s falsification of financial deals and misleading of the public.
Luckin Coffee’s nearly 5,000 stores in China are still in operation.
Reuters contributed to the story.