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SEC reaches ‘agreement in principle’ to resolve insider trading case of Coinbase product manager

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The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is moving forward with a resolution to the case against a former product manager at Coinbase Global accused of insider trading.

In an April 3 filing in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the SEC said it had reached “an agreement in principle” with Ishan Wahi. The former Coinbase employee — along with his brother Nikhil Wahi and associate Sameer Ramani — allegedly used confidential information he obtained from the crypto exchange in order to profit off new listings of tokens, totalling more than $1 million.

“Any settlement recommended by SEC staff must be reviewed within the SEC and approved by the SEC’s Commissioners before it may be submitted to the Court for approval, a process than can take a number of weeks,” said the filing.

Authorities arrested Ishan and Nikhil in July 2022 — reportedly attempting to fly to India — and both brothers subsequently pleaded guilty to parallel criminal insider trading charges. According to the April 3 filing, the SEC had been engaging in “good faith discussions” with Nikhil, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison in January.

The case against the Wahi brothers was one of the first involving insider trading of a major U.S. crypto exchange before platforms including FTX and Celsius declared bankruptcy. The original complaint alleged Ishan had had access to information on listing cryptocurrencies on exchanges controlled by Coinbase in his position as a product manager from August 2021 to May 2022. He then passed on that information to his brother or Ramami to invest in the tokens before the Coinbase listing was expected to cause a price jump.

Related: Coinbase files brief in SEC Wahi case, says it doesn’t sell securities but would like to

Notable in the context of the SEC cracking down on crypto, the case saw the regulator label nine of the tokens as “crypto asset securities” falling under its purview. The SEC later issued a Wells notice — warning of a potential enforcement action — to Coinbase itself in March. The exchange’s chief legal officer Paul Grewal said the notice came despite many discussions with SEC representatives.

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