The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that former Coinbase product manager Ishan Wahi and his brother, Nikhil Wahi, agreed to settle charges that they engaged in insider trading through a scheme to trade ahead of multiple announcements regarding at least nine crypto asset securities that would be made available for trading on the Coinbase platform. Ishan and Nikhil Wahi each agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 and to pay disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, plus prejudgment interest. As is often the case when a criminal court has already ordered defendants to forfeit their ill-gotten gains, the disgorgement and prejudgment interest in the SEC’s case would be deemed satisfied by the orders of forfeiture of the Wahi brothers’ assets in the criminal action, if approved by the court, and the SEC determined not to seek civil penalties in light of the Wahi brothers’ prison sentences.
The SEC’s complaint, filed on July 21, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleged that, while employed at Coinbase, Ishan Wahi helped to coordinate the platform’s public listing announcements that included what crypto assets would be made available for trading. According to the complaint, Coinbase treated such information as confidential and warned its employees not to trade on the basis of, or tip others with, that information. However, from at least June 2021 to April 2022, in breach of his duties, Ishan repeatedly tipped the timing and content of upcoming listing announcements to his brother, Nikhil Wahi, and his friend, Sameer Ramani. Ahead of those announcements, which usually resulted in an increase in the assets’ prices, Nikhil Wahi and Ramani allegedly purchased at least 25 crypto assets, at least nine of which were securities, and then typically sold them shortly after the announcements for a profit. The Wahi brothers agreed, as part of the settlement, not to deny the SEC’s allegations.
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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