The Securities and Exchange Commission settled charges with Steven Seagal on Feb. 27, 2020 resulting in two $157,000 fines. The SEC ruling is not the first time the martial arts action star was in the news for a legal scandal as opposed to a new movie.
Readers born after the ’90s may even wonder why Seagal warrants his own headlines as opposed to the usual financial or criminal settlements that float under the radar. Here is a guide to Steven Seagal’s career, his run ins with the law and the latest case.
Steven Seagal IS a ’90s action hero
Seagal got his start in Hollywood as a martial arts expert on movie sets. He reportedly broke Sean Connery’s wrist behind the scenes of Never Say Never Again. Seagal moved in front of the camera with 1988’s Above the Law. Agent Mike Ovitz turned Seagal, his martial arts instructor, into a movie star.
Seagal starred in a series of martial arts movies where he used his Aikido style to beat up bad guys. The thrill was seeing Seagal turn his attackers’ force against them. Many of the titles could be described as “Steven Seagal is…” So Steven Seagal is Hard to Kill, Steven Seagal is Out for Justice, Steven Seagal is Under Siege or Steven Seagal is Under Siege 2.
Warner Brothers allowed Seagal to direct On Deadly Ground, which included an environmentalist message against oil companies polluting the environment. Box office returns began to wane with The Glimmer Man and Fire Down Below. His films began going straight to video. He had one comeback with 2001’s Exit Wounds but squandered it right away with Half Past Dead. There are still new releases available to stream and he still does the fast hands.
The “real” Steven Seagal
Seagal was more than just a movie star, though. He preached his Aikido philosophy and embarked on many other endeavors. Did you know Seagal released an album? He performed his music on tour with his band Thunderbox. Seagal also released an energy drink and co-wrote a novel with Tom Morrissey.
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana made Seagal a deputy sheriff. A&E made a reality series about Seagal busting real crimes in the county. Steven Seagal: Lawman aired for three seasons, but Seagal didn’t always enforce the law.
Steven Seagal’s history of legal troubles
Seagal has been the subject of several legal allegations and convictions since the height of his career in the ’90s. When he was married to Kelly LeBrock, optician Cheryl Shuman came forward with allegations that Seagal abused LeBrock. In 2018, two women came forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Regina Simons said Seagal raped her when she was 18 on the set of On Deadly Ground. Faviola Davis said he groped her during a 2002 audition. Previously Jenny McCarthy, Portia De Rossi and Rachel Grant alleged Seagal sexually assaulted them, which he denied.
Seagal was also embroiled in the Anthony Pellicano scandal. The FBI alleged Seagal hired Pellicano to threaten reporter Anita Busch, to prevent her from reporting on his alleged ties to organized crime. The FBI did not ultimately charge Seagal.
In 2016, Vladimir Putin made Seagal a Russian citizen and in 2018 named him “special envoy to improve Russia’s ties with the United States.”
The SEC charges
The SEC announcement states that Seagal promoted the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and failed to disclose his financial stake in the company. He used his social media to encourage fans to invest in Bitcoiin2Gen’s IPO in return for $250,000 cash and $750,000 in Bitcoin. Bitcoiin2Gen also named Seagal Brand Ambassador in a press release. Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Security Unit Kristina Littman explained the ruling.
“These investors were entitled to know about payments Seagal received or was promised to endorse this investment so they could decide whether he may be biased,” Littman said. “Celebrities are not allowed to use their social media influence to tout securities without appropriately disclosing their compensation.”
Seagal’s fines totaled $314,000 and he agreed not to promote any securities at all for three years. This is still more publicity than Seagal’s last 15 movies combined received.
How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.