Unraveling Kraken’s Legal Odyssey: Navigating the SEC Storm and the Evolution of a Cryptocurrency Giant

Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States and founded in 2011, is back under the regulatory spotlight as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initiates a civil lawsuit against this well-known platform. The allegations include user confusion, mishandling of exchange funds and the listing of numerous unregistered securities.

Unraveling Kraken's Legal Odyssey: Navigating the SEC Storm and the Evolution of a Cryptocurrency Giant

About Kraken

Headquartered in San Francisco, Kraken facilitates the trading of various cryptocurrencies, allowing market participants to buy or sell digital assets using fiat currencies such as U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, euros, and Japanese yen. As of January 15, 2023, Kraken holds the position of the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency exchange, boasting a daily trading volume of $750 million, according to CoinMarketCap.

Kraken supports the trading of over 200 cryptocurrencies and more than 600 cryptocurrency pairs. Noteworthy virtual currencies available on the platform include popular ones like Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin (BTC), along with emerging tokens like EOS (EOS), Monero (XMR), and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The platform also facilitates trading in cryptocurrency futures and derivatives.

History of Kraken

Established in 2011, Kraken officially commenced trading operations in 2013. Owned by Payward Inc., Kraken’s current CEO is David Ripley, who assumed the role in 2022, succeeding co-founder Jesse Powell. The exchange enables the seamless movement of funds between participants’ linked bank accounts and the transfer of cryptocurrencies to and from their digital wallets connected to Kraken-linked trading accounts.

In 2014, Kraken gained prominence when it, alongside Coinbase, was selected to provide bitcoin trading market data to the Bloomberg terminal. This association with a leading market data provider significantly contributed to Kraken’s recognition within the trader community.

Shortly after, Kraken partnered with the chart-service provider TradingView, expanding its offerings and adding more cryptocurrencies to its trading platform. The exchange continued to enable funding and trading in various fiat currencies, including USD, GBP and JPY.

Kraken vs. Other Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Over the years, Kraken has evolved into a preferred trading destination for various cryptocurrency market participants. Notably, in late 2014, Kraken made headlines by supporting an investigation into the missing bitcoins from Mt. Gox, once the largest bitcoin exchange. This marked a pivotal moment for Kraken, which, at the time, primarily served European customers and had recently entered the Japanese market.

In February 2016, Kraken announced progress in its Mt. Gox investigations, approving numerous claims from creditors. The exchange’s growth was further fueled by the introduction of features such as margin trading and dark pool services, catering to both casual and professional traders.

SEC Allegations:

The SEC has leveled multiple accusations against Kraken, alleging that the platform:

  • 1. Confused users and mishandled exchange funds, reaching a staggering $330 billion.
  • 2. Operated as an unregistered broker, clearing agency and dealer.
  • 3. Listed a significant number of unregistered securities, including ALGO, MATIC and NEAR.

The SEC contends that Kraken’s actions bear a remarkable resemblance to earlier cases involving Binance and Coinbase. Seeking substantial fines and a permanent injunction, the regulatory body aims to prohibit Kraken from operating as an unregistered exchange.

Kraken vs. Other Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Concerns About Kraken

Despite its growth, Kraken has faced challenges. In May 2017, alongside the bitcoin exchange Poloniex, Kraken experienced Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, resulting in significant losses for market participants. This led to a class-action lawsuit against Kraken, with plaintiffs seeking over $5 million in damages.

Additionally, government regulators have scrutinized Kraken. In 2018, the New York Attorney General identified the exchange as one of several not complying with the state’s financial regulations. In 2019, the Office of Foreign Assets Control investigated Kraken for violating sanctions related to transactions with customers based in Iran. The exchange settled, agreeing to a penalty of $362,000 and an additional $100,000 dedicated to enforcing sanctions controls.


As Kraken faces SEC accusations once again, the cryptocurrency community observes closely, recognizing the platform’s pivotal role in the industry’s evolution. Kraken’s journey, from supporting investigations to addressing regulatory challenges, reflects the complexities of operating in the dynamic cryptocurrency landscape. The outcome of the SEC lawsuit will undoubtedly influence the regulatory framework for cryptocurrency platforms, emphasizing the need for transparency, adherence to regulations and continued efforts to ensure investor protection.

Read more: Cryptocurrency Futures Trading: Optimizing Profit through the Ideal Crypto Platform

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