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Cryptocurrency Exchange Kraken Will “Probably” Pursue SEC Registration

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken will “probably” register with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a broker-dealer and an alternative trading system (ATS), the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

“We would probably get registered as a broker-dealer and then an ATS,’’ Kraken co-founder and CEO Jesse Powell told Bloomberg  in an interview in New York, where he was attending industry mega-conference Consensus. “I don’t think it necessarily helps the business. I think we’re doing everything right anyway.’’

At present, Kraken and most other cryptocurrency exchanges operate in the US as money transmitter businesses, which are regulated at the state level. Fellow San Francisco-headquartered exchange Coinbase has also reportedly discussed registering as a broker-dealer.

Earlier this year, the SEC issued a bulletin warning cryptocurrency exchanges not to list security tokens without registering as a national securities exchanges and threatening to pursue enforcement action against platforms that list unregistered securities.

Registering as an ATS — a trading venue that is regulated differently from public stock exchanges — would give the SEC more authority to supervise the platform. It could also make the SEC less-inclined to pursue enforcement action against the exchange for listing tokens that the agency later deems to be unregistered securities.

The SEC has said that it hopes cryptocurrency exchanges will register with the SEC.

However, registering as an ATS is an arduous process, and Powell said it would only do so if the SEC would provide more clarity about the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offering (ICO) tokens.

In any case, though, the comments are notable, particularly given Powell’s stance toward regulators that he believes are hostile to the industry.

Recently, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an inquiry into the operations of cryptocurrency exchanges, including companies — like Kraken — that do not currently operate in the state. Many exchanges willingly complied, but Powell criticized them for “kowtowing toward this kind of abuse” and said that Kraken would not respond to the probe.

Soon after, Schneiderman was forced to resign in disgrace when four women accused him of physical abuse, setting Powell up to deliver a withering punchline during a panel at Consensus.

“The AG doesn’t have any authority over us,’’ Powell added in the Bloomberg interview Tuesday. “Two things I really hate are bullies and hypocrites, and this guy is both.’’

Later in the talk, Powell said that he foresees Kraken — which is currently privately-held — going public in the future. And when it does, he hopes that the company’s shares will be tokenized.

“If we could find a way to do that — to have the company’s stock traded as a token, I think that would be awesome,” he said.

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