SEC Sues Crypto Company Kraken for Operating Unregistered Exchange

According to the SEC complaint, Kraken has made hundreds of millions of dollars unlawfully facilitating the buying and selling of crypto asset securities.

SEC Sues Crypto Company Kraken for Operating Unregistered Exchange

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently taken action against the cryptocurrency company Kraken. The SEC has charged Payward Ventures, Inc. and Payward Trading Ltd., both commonly known as Kraken, with failing to register the offer and sale of their crypto asset staking-as-a-service program.

What Is Staking-as-a-Service?

Staking is a process in which investors lock up – or “stake” – their crypto tokens with a blockchain validator with the goal of being rewarded with new tokens when their staked crypto tokens become part of the process for validating data for the blockchain. When investors provide tokens to staking-as-a-service providers, they lose control of those tokens and take on risks associated with those platforms, with very little protection.

The Charges Against Kraken

According to the SEC’s complaint, since 2019, Kraken has offered and sold its crypto asset “staking services” to the general public. Kraken pools certain crypto assets transferred by investors and stakes them on behalf of those investors. The complaint alleges that Kraken touts its staking investment program offers an easy-to-use platform and benefits that derive from Kraken’s efforts on behalf of investors, including Kraken’s strategies to obtain regular investment returns and payouts.

The SEC alleges that Kraken failed to adequately disclose the risks of participating in the program, which had advertised annual yields of as much as 21%. The SEC also said Kraken failed to disclose information about the company’s health, the fees it charged, or how the company would handle its customers’ tokens.

The Settlement

Earlier this year, the two Kraken entities agreed to immediately cease offering or selling securities through crypto asset staking services or staking programs and pay $30 million in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties. As part of the agreement resolving the charges, Kraken said it would “automatically unstake all U.S. client assets” that were a part of the program and that its US customers would no longer be eligible to participate in staking.

The Implications

This case marks a significant development in the regulation of cryptocurrency and the SEC’s broader efforts to bring the industry under its jurisdiction. It serves as a reminder to crypto intermediaries that when offering investment contracts in exchange for investors’ tokens, they need to provide the proper disclosures and safeguards required by securities laws.

The SEC’s action against Kraken underscores the importance of transparency and investor protection in the rapidly evolving world of cryptocurrency. It also highlights the potential risks associated with staking-as-a-service programs and the need for these programs to operate within the framework of federal securities laws.

SEC’s Role in Regulating Cryptocurrency

The SEC’s mission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. As the markets for digital assets such as cryptocurrencies grow, the SEC and other financial regulators must impose sensible regulations on digital assets to protect traders and investors. The SEC has taken the position that some cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) are securities and therefore subject to the same regulatory framework as traditional securities. This means that companies offering cryptocurrencies or ICOs must comply with federal securities laws, including registration requirements and disclosure rules.

The SEC’s lawsuit against Kraken is a significant event in the cryptocurrency industry. It highlights the need for transparency, investor protection, and adherence to federal securities laws. As the cryptocurrency market continues to evolve, it is crucial for investors and companies to understand the regulatory landscape and the risks associated with crypto asset staking services. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of operating within the legal framework to ensure the protection of investors and the integrity of the cryptocurrency market.

Share post: Logo
Welcome to

Connect with peers, level up skills, and find jobs at the world's best in-house legal departments Logo
Welcome to

Connect with peers, level up your skills, and find jobs at the world's best in-house legal departments