Indian brothers Ishan and Nikhil Wahi, associated with the crypto exchange platform Coinbase, have agreed to settle charges that they engaged in insider trading through a scheme, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced Wednesday.
The Wahi brothers were involved in insider trading through a scheme to trade ahead of multiple announcements regarding at least nine crypto asset securities that would be made available for trading on the Coinbase platform.
Ishan, former Coinbase product manager, and Nikhil, have each agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 and to pay disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, plus prejudgment interest.
An SEC complaint, filed on July 21, 2022, in a District Court in Washington, alleged that while employed at Coinbase, Ishan helped to coordinate the platform's public listing announcements that included what crypto assets would be made available for trading.
According to the complaint, Coinbase treated such information as confidential and warned its employees not to trade on the basis of, or tip others with, that information.
However, in breach of his duties from at least June 2021 to April 2022, Ishan repeatedly tipped the timing and content of upcoming listing announcements to Nikhil and his Indian-American friend, Sameer Ramani of Houston.
Ahead of those announcements, which usually resulted in an increase in the assets' prices, Nikhil and Ramani allegedly purchased at least 25 crypto assets, at least nine of which were securities, and then typically sold them shortly after the announcements for a profit.
The Wahi brothers agreed, as part of the settlement, not to deny the SEC's allegations.
"While the technologies at issue in this case may be new, the conduct is not. We allege that Ishan and Nikhil Wahi, respectively, tipped and traded securities based on material nonpublic information, and that's insider trading, pure and simple," said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.
Subject to court approval, Ishan and Nikhil consented to the entry of final judgments that permanently enjoin them from violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.
In the criminal action, Ishan and Nikhil pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Ishan was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to forfeit 10.97 ether and 9,440 Tether, and Nikhil was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $892,500.