Ex-Coinbase manager gets two years for insider trading

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In what was described as the first cryptocurrency insider trading case, a former product manager at Coinbase was sentenced to two years in prison for tipping his associates regarding crypto assets that were going to be listed on Coinbase Exchanges.

Ishan Wahi, who previously pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, was sentenced to two years by US District Judge Loretta Preska.

According to a statement from Damian Williams, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Wahi was sentenced “for providing Coinbase’s confidential business information about upcoming Coinbase crypto asset listings to his brother and his friend so that they could place profitable trades in advance of Coinbase’s listing announcements.”

“Ishan Wahi – a former Coinbase product manager – violated the trust placed in him by his employer by tipping others with valuable confidential information regarding Coinbase’s planned token listings,” Williams said in his statement.

“Today’s sentence should send a strong signal to all participants in the cryptocurrency markets that the laws decidedly do apply to them. The Southern District of New York will hold those who engage in insider trading to full account, regardless of whether their illegal conduct occurs in the equity markets or in the market for crypto assets,” he added.

Wahi expressed remorse for his actions during the sentencing hearing on May 9, Reuters said in a report.

“I made a huge mistake that will follow me for the rest of my life,” he was quoted as saying.

Based on the allegations that were made in public court proceedings, between June 2021 to April 2022, Wahi provided confidential business information to Nikhil Wahi and Sameer Ramani “so that they could secretly engage in profitable trades around public announcements by Coinbase.”

On April 12, 2022, a Twitter account posted about an Ethereum blockchain wallet “that bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of tokens exclusively featured in the Coinbase Asset Listing post about 24 hours before it was published.”

The charges said that the said trading activity was conducted by Ramani based on tips provided by Wahi.  

Coinbase publicly replied on Twitter and said that it is already investigating the matter. It later added that any employee who leaked confidential company information would be “immediately terminated and referred to relevant authorities (potentially for criminal prosecution).”

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