The US Securities and Exchange Commission has sued Kraken, accusing the crypto trading platform of operating as an unregistered securities exchange, broker, dealer, and clearing agency.
The move follows similar charges levelled by the SEC against Binance and Coinbase and comes just months after Kraken and the watchdog reached a $30 million settlement over the failure to register a staking-as-a-service programme.
The SEC alleges that Kraken intertwines the traditional services of an exchange, broker, dealer, and clearing agency without having registered any of those functions with the Commission as required by law.
Kraken’s alleged failure to register these functions has "deprived investors of significant protections," including inspection by the SEC, recordkeeping requirements, and safeguards against conflicts of interest, among others.
In addition, says the SEC, Kraken commingles its customers’ money with its own, including paying operational expenses directly from accounts that hold customer cash. Kraken also allegedly commingles its customers’ crypto assets with its own, creating what its own auditor had identified as “a significant risk of loss” to its customers.
Gurbir Grewal, director, SEC division of enforcement, says: “We allege that Kraken made a business decision to reap hundreds of millions of dollars from investors rather than coming into compliance with the securities laws. That decision resulted in a business model rife with conflicts of interest that placed investors’ funds at risk.”
In response, Kraken says: "We disagree with the SEC's complaint against Kraken, stand firm in our view that we do not list securities and plan to vigorously defend our position."