Brother of former Coinbase employee pleads guilty to charges related to insider trading: Report

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Nikhil Wahi, who was arrested for allegedly working with his brother and an associate on a scheme to commit insider trading using crypto, has reportedly entered a guilty plea for wire fraud conspiracy charges.

According to a Monday report from Reuters, Wahi admitted to authorities during a virtual hearing that he used confidential information obtained from Coinbase to make profits from trading crypto. Wahi’s brother Ishan worked as a product manager at Coinbase, during which time he allegedly shared information regarding the launch dates of tokens with his brother and an associate, Sameer Ramani. The trio allegedly used the insider information to make roughly $1.5 million in gains from trading 25 different cryptocurrencies between 2021 and 2022.

“I knew that it was wrong to receive Coinbase’s confidential information and make trades based on that confidential information,” Wahi reportedly said in court.

Wahi and his brother were arrested and charged in Seattle in July, while Ramani remained at large at the time of publication but was still facing similar charges. Cointelegraph reported that Ishan pleaded not guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges in August. Reuters reported Nikhil originally pleaded guilty but changed his plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

In a parallel case against the trio, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint alleging the Wahis and Ramani violated antifraud provisions of securities laws. The same filing claimed at least 9 of the 25 tokens involved in the insider trading scheme were “crypto asset securities” subject to the SEC’s purview. Critics of the case have claimed the regulator was taking a “regulation by enforcement” approach rather than waiting for legislation to clarify the SEC’s role.

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On Sept. 8, Coinbase announced support for Tornado Cash users who sued the U.S. Department of Treasury, alleging the department illegally added the crypto mixer’s smart contract addresses to the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list of Specially Designated Nationals. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said the exchange had a “responsibility to defend the crypto industry against actions that go too far, and treat crypto on an uneven playing field.”