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Kraken Invokes The Fatal Attraction Defense

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We’re not lawyers, but there are a couple things we learned from watching legal dramas: First, never talk to the cops without an attorney. Second, never consent to a search. And third—this should go without saying—don’t call attention to yourself by sending passive-aggressive tweets to an Attorney General who’s already out for your blood. 


Staffers at the Kraken Exchange do not seem to watch many legal dramas, based on their reactions on Twitter. In response to a report from the New York Attorney General, which raised the possibility that Kraken was in “potential violation of New York’s virtual currency regulations,” the exchange responded with a flurry of angry tweets.

 

SIMETRI Research

 

In a separate thread, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell compared the Empire State to an “abusive, controlling ex.” Yikes.

 

 

The spat was prompted by a report on the “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative,” issued by the Office of the Attorney General.

Kraken isn’t New York’s only jilted ex…change. Although New York was formerly a center for Bitcoin entrepreneurship, tight regulations around BitLicense issuance forced crypto-enterprises to leave the state. Many crypto exchanges do not allow registrations from New York IP addresses, including Poloniex, Bitfinex, and, yes, Kraken. 


Slapfight on Social Media

If New York is a bad ex, the OAG report is the bunny boiler. Although the report sought “voluntary participation” from exchanges, the report is peppered with unsubtle warnings against the four which chose not to respond. 

“Based on this investigation,” the report says in its opening paragraphs, “the OAG referred Binance, Gate.io, and Kraken to the Department of Financial Services for potential violation of New York’s virtual currency regulations.”

The OAG does not publish the reason for suspicion, and the responses of these three exchanges has not been publicized. However, based on how the OAG phrased its responses, at least one exchange poked the bear in the eye: 

….the Kraken platform’s public response is alarming. In announcing the company’s decision not to participate in the Initiative, Kraken declared that market manipulation “doesn’t matter to most crypto traders,” even while admitting that “scams are rampant” in the industry.

 

There are certainly concerns here that the OAG may be overstepping: what are ‘potential’ legal violations? Is it a ‘potential’ legal violation if I have a driver’s license and I’m not wearing a seatbelt… even if I’m watching Hill Street Blues in my living room?


New York Targets Exchanges, Again

Ostensibly to protect New Yorkers from “unfair and deceptive practices,” the Office wrote to thirteen major exchanges. The OAG report is based on their responses.  

Some parts of this story are familiar. The OAG enjoins New Yorkers to “be wary of platforms that allow new customers to on-board without adequate safeguards,” and to watch for “”hidden” or non-obvious charges [that] may be associated with trading activity.” The office also also found “no rhyme or reason” in the way exchanges chose new assets to list. 

Others might be new. Contrary to Kraken’s objections, market manipulation does matter to serious crypto traders, as does the preponderance of scams. You might not be so eager to day-trade on the five exchanges which have no formal manipulation policy, or that some make no bones about trading on their own platforms. 


Still, it’s disappointing to see Kraken getting into a catfight, even if the Attorney General started it.

When Kraken struck back at Bloomberg for the organization’s usual crass coverage of crypto, there was strong support in the community for a major player that stood up to Bloomberg’s bullying.

But on this occasion, it’s possible that their stance may attract negative regulatory attention to cryptocurrency, for which there is such a thing as bad press. In which case it’s likely to slow issuance of BitLicenses in a state which has only recently has started to open up. 

So is their reaction a good thing or a bad thing for cryptocurrency? Perhaps it’s too Close to call.

 

The author has investments in digital currencies.

 

DISCLOSURE

Authors at Crypto Briefing are invested in cryptocurrencies. The author of this post may be invested in digital assets mentioned here.

Andrew Ancheta
Andrew Ancheta
Andrew is the Deputy Editor at Crypto Briefing. After many adventures in China, Vietnam, Persia, Cuba and Europe, he spent several years in Beijing, where he produced articles for the state media. Besides cryptocurrency, Andrew's also interested in travel writing and photography. His articles have appeared in VICE, Time Out, City Weekend, Badges, Scoot, Art Republik, CoinStaker and several other magazines and websites around the world. He now divides his time between Beijing and New York.

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