The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled with Kraken on Feb. 9 for an action taken against the exchange’s staking rewards program. Kraken paid a $30 million fine and agreed to halt the program.
Set aside for a moment the irony that the SEC is going after a solvent firm in the crypto space with a decade-long reputation as a good actor. Kraken has been helping settle verified Bitcoin (BTC) claimants from the hacking of rival exchange Mt. Gox over a decade ago. It invented the use of Merkle Root data to create verifiable proof of reserves. It allowed customers to effectively crowdsource audits of the asset side of the balance sheet by verifying what’s in their account against data on-chain.
And while Sam Bankman-Fried urged customers to keep their tokens on FTX for obvious reasons, Kraken founder Jesse Powell has always been a “not your keys, not your coins” guy. Meanwhile, the SEC was asleep on FTX, Terra and Three Arrows Capital. This week the SEC acted like a beat cop who pulls over a commuting soccer mom and throws the book at her to act tough on crime after a streak of robberies.
100% yes it has/will happen and 100% yes, we will be forced to comply. If you’re worried about it, don’t keep your funds with any centralized/regulated custodian. We cannot protect you. Get your coins/cash out and only trade p2p.
— Jesse Powell (@jespow) February 18, 2022
We have to set aside other political hypocrisy in this affair, like politicians decrying proof-of-work (PoW) blockchains yet now seeking to outlaw staking on proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains. Or that Kraken tried to come into compliance with the SEC by applying for an Alternative Trading System license but got crickets in response.
The SEC emphasized that Kraken’s staking program was custodial, pooling investor assets together. Some on Twitter were quick to comment that this is actually great news for crypto. “Hey, look, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler is parroting our motto of ‘not your keys, not your coins.’ This just means more decentralization of staking in PoS blockchains.”
Related: Staking ban is another nail in crypto’s coffin — and that’s a good thing
Not so fast. Lido and Rocket Pool are innovative alternatives to centralized exchange staking programs, but they also pool together tokens. Pooling is essential for most retail investors to stake in Ethereum due to the minimum stake of 32 Ether (ETH) (~$50,000). The SEC’s enforcement playbook against Kraken…
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