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Coinbase Tightens Internal Policies to Prevent Insider Trading Following Recent Listing Announcement

2 mins
30 April 2022, 12:30 GMT+0000
Updated by Ryan James
30 April 2022, 12:30 GMT+0000
In Brief
  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong asserted the company's strong position against front-running of newly-listed tokens.
  • Coinbase was most recently accused of insider trading, as a slew of new tokens were purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars shortly after listing.
  • A judge dismissed a bitcoin cash class-action insider trading lawsuit leveled at Coinbase in 2018.
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Coinbase said Thursday that it is putting in place measures to ensure that new token listings being considered are not known beforehand.

CEO Brian Armstrong said in a blog post that users attempting to determine, from blockchain activity or software manipulation, which tokens are going to be listed, would not be able to do so. “While this is public data, it isn’t data that all customers can easily access, so we strive to remove these information asymmetries,” he wrote. Insider trading is the use of privileged information to influence the price of a stock or cryptocurrency. Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Securities and Exchange Commission’s Rule 10b-5 prevent clandestine trading on inside corporate information meant to stay within the bounds of employee confidence.

He also committed to tracing leaks from Coinbase employees through the services of blockchain forensics companies. “We have zero tolerance for this and monitor for it, conducting investigations where appropriate with outside law firms.” This becomes more important as altcoins formed the majority of Coinbase’s trading volume in the fourth quarter of last year. “If these investigations find that any Coinbase employee somehow aided or abetted any nefarious activity, those employees are immediately terminated and referred to relevant authorities,” Armstrong wrote.

Accused of insider trading following listing of 50 new tokens

Recently, Twitter users accused Coinbase of insider trading again, following an announcement by the company that it would list 50 new tokens. One crypto influencer, Jordan Fish, after looking at on-chain data, tweeted on April 12, 2022, “Found an ETH address that bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of tokens exclusively featured in the Coinbase Asset Listing post about 24 hours before it was published.” The tokens purchased included Kromatika (KROM), RAC (RAC) Indexed (NDX).

In response, the CSO of Coinbase tweeted that “his team” had been “investigating since yesterday. Investigations like this are not quick or simple, but they are critical to determining the context surrounding those on-chain movements. Transparency is also key, so I will share any findings as soon as possible.”

Have we heard this before?

Armstrong’s most recent assertions echo an earlier statement made by a company spokesperson while at the center of attention during a 2018 lawsuit. At the time the person said, “We would not hesitate to terminate an employee or contractor and/or take appropriate legal action if evidence showed our policies were violated.” A court document surfacing on March 1, 2018, revealed a class-action lawsuit filed by Jeffery Berk, alleging that insider trading was involved when Coinbase listed bitcoin cash. Bitcoin cash is a hard fork of the bitcoin blockchain that saw an increase in block size from one megabyte to eight megabytes. The plaintiffs accused the crypto trading company of informing insiders before the launch, as the bitcoin cash price surged ahead of the announcement. The plaintiffs alleged company negligence. According to Fortune, the two law firms investigating the matter concluded within months of the lawsuit being filed that no employees had been involved in insider trading, leading to the price spike.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit.

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