SEC Did Not Consult Industry Before Kraken Crypto Staking Charges: Commissioner Peirce

The SEC commissioner spoke a day after Kraken settled charges with the regulator that its U.S. staking service was an unregistered securities offering.

AccessTimeIconFeb 10, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 16, 2023 at 4:24 p.m. UTC

PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission did not attempt to consult with the crypto industry before launching this week’s unregistered securities crackdown on staking-as-a-service, Commissioner Hester Peirce said Friday.

Speaking at a student conference at the University of Pennsylvania, Peirce said the top U.S. investments regulator’s lawsuit against Kraken crypto exchange was the latest example of regulation-by-enforcement in the digital assets space. On Thursday, Kraken paid $30 million and shut down its U.S. staking business after the SEC alleged it was violating federal securities law.

“We had not tried to sit down with people in the industry” to discuss staking, the process by which crypto holders delegate their tokens to validators in order to earn crypto rewards, Peirce said. She said the SEC has known about staking for a long time, and its decision to strike now was “arbitrary,” as was its targeting of Kraken’s staking business first.

"Yesterday’s decision basically said, ‘Let’s just shut it down.’ That can’t be the answer," the commissioner said.

Peirce's comments raise the prospect of SEC’s battle against Kraken’s staking turning into a wider war. Kraken is hardly the only U.S. entity that runs a staking business for U.S. customers. Publicly traded company Coinbase (COIN) also offers staking, and it has said that business remains online.

She took particular umbrage at the restrictive terms of Kraken’s settlement. It has vowed to never relaunch its staking business for U.S. customers, she said, meaning it can not even go through the motions of operating above board, in the SEC’s view, if it wanted to.

The SEC has taken an aggressive approach to oversight of the crypto industry under Chair Gary Gensler. Peirce has been a noted dissenter of the agency’s handling of the crypto space for years.


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Danny Nelson

Danny is CoinDesk's Managing Editor for Data & Tokens. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.