‘Midnight Massacre:’ SEC Crackdown on Crypto Staking Services Prompts Speculation of Further Enforcement Actions

On Feb. 9, 2023, the cryptocurrency community learned of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) crackdown on staking services. The SEC fined Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange, $30 million for offering an “unregistered offering” related to its U.S. staking service. Digital currency advocates are now debating what constitutes a yield product versus a noncustodial solution that is not considered a security. Fox News journalist Eleanor Terrett predicts more regulatory crackdowns on the crypto space in the coming weeks, including enforcement actions against exchanges and banks.

Observers Weigh in on the Future of Crypto Staking After SEC Crackdown

There is much discussion regarding the recent actions taken by the top U.S. securities regulator against crypto exchange Kraken and its staking service. The day before, Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, warned that he had heard rumors the SEC would attempt to eliminate cryptocurrency staking for retail customers in the United States. The next day, Kraken announced it was ending staking services for U.S. customers. The SEC, chaired by Gary Gensler, disclosed that the regulator settled with Kraken over the issue for $30 million for civil penalties and disgorgement.

On Thursday, Gary Gensler emphasized that cryptocurrency exchanges must comply with regulatory policies when offering investment vehicles to retail customers in the United States. During an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, Gensler repeated this stance. “Companies like Kraken can offer investment contracts and investment schemes, but they must provide full, fair, and truthful disclosure,” Gensler said. “This protects the investors who watch your program. That’s the basic law, and they were not following it.”

The enforcement actions have sparked discussions about what constitutes a yield product versus a noncustodial solution that is not considered a security. Economist and trader Alex Krüger weighed in. “Positive narrative spin for later,” Krüger tweeted. “Banning U.S. exchanges/custodians from offering staking services will push staking offchain or abroad, making Ethereum decentralized and beyond the reach of U.S. regulators. Decentralized Ethereum is better Ethereum.”

Fox News Reporter Told Imminent Regulatory Enforcement Actions Against Crypto Exchanges, Banks, and Token Issuers Coming Shortly

SEC commissioner Hester Peirce expressed a dissenting opinion and disagreed with the actions. Peirce said it was “most concerning” that the SEC’s “solution to a registration violation is to shut down entirely a program that has served people well.” The commissioner emphasized that “a paternalistic and lazy regulator settles on a solution like the one in this settlement: instead of initiating a public process to develop a workable registration process that provides valuable information to investors, it simply shuts it down.”

According to Coinbase chief legal officer Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s staking service is different. “Coinbase’s staking program is not affected by [Thursday’s] news,” Grewal explained in a statement. “What’s clear from [Thursday’s] announcement is that Kraken was essentially offering a yield product. Coinbase’s staking services are fundamentally different and are not securities.” In addition to the latest crackdown on staking, rumors are circulating that more regulatory enforcement is on the horizon.

On Thursday, Fox News reporter Eleanor Terrett reported that more regulatory action is expected to impact the cryptocurrency industry in the coming weeks. Terrett tweeted, “SCOOP: Gary Gensler is embarking on a ‘midnight massacre’ to bring all of crypto under his control. In the coming weeks, the SEC, New York’s Department of Financial Services, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will bring enforcement actions against exchanges, banks, and entities that mint tokens in an attempt to label most of them as securities. I’m told Gensler’s strategy is to bring as many enforcement actions as possible while the 118th Congress is still getting settled.”

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What do you think the future holds for cryptocurrency in the face of increased regulatory enforcement actions? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is the News Lead at News and a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open-source code, and decentralized applications. Since September 2015, Redman has written more than 6,000 articles for News about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

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