Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has reached an agreement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to stop offering staking services or programs to U.S. clients.
In a Feb. 9 announcement, the SEC said it had charged Kraken with “failing to register the offer and sale of their crypto asset staking-as-a-service program,” which the commission claims qualified as securities under its purview. The crypto firm has agreed to cease operations of its staking program for U.S. customers as well as pay $30 million in disgorgement, prejudgment interest and civil penalties.
“Kraken not only offered investors outsized returns untethered to any economic realities, but also retained the right to pay them no returns at all,” said the SEC’s Division of Enforcement director, Gurbir Grewal. “All the while, it provided them zero insight into, among other things, its financial condition and whether it even had the means of paying the marketed returns in the first place.”
Today we charged Kraken with failing to register the offer and sale of their crypto asset staking-as-a-service program, whereby investors transfer crypto assets to Kraken for staking in exchange for advertised annual investment returns of as much as 21 percent.— U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (@SECGov) February 9, 2023
The SEC’s complaint states that Kraken had been offering its crypto staking services to users in the United States since 2019, advertising it as an “easy-to-use platform and benefits that derive from Kraken’s efforts on behalf of investors.” However, the commission alleged that Kraken users effectively lost control of their tokens by offering them to the staking program, imparting them with additional risk and “very little protection”.
Kraken said in a Feb. 9 blog post that it would continue to offer staking services for non-U.S. users through a separate subsidiary.
News of the SEC settlement followed officials from the Internal Revenue Service petitioning the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to allow it to issue summons aiming to obtain information on Kraken users. According to the Feb. 3 court filing, Kraken did not respond to a similar summons issued in May 2021.
In the 2021 case, the crypto exchange had been ordered to provide information on users who conducted the equivalent of $20,000 in crypto transactions over the course of a year between 2016 and 2020. U.S. officials said Kraken had “failed to comply with the summons” nor produced the “books, records, papers, and other data” it requested.
Update (Feb. 9 at10:06 PM UTC): This article has been updated to include a statement from Kraken.