The brother of a former Coinbase employee has agreed to pay the cryptocurrency exchange nearly $470,000 for his role in an insider trading scheme.
According to a New York District Court filing signed on April 6 and made public on April 10, Nikhil Wahi — brother of former Coinbase product manager Ishan Wahi — will be required to begin making restitution payments while serving time in prison in what is believed to be the first insider trading case involving crypto.
The amount must be paid in full within 20 years of Nikhil’s release from prison and represents the amount Coinbase spent on legal services relating to the Department of Justice’s investigation.
In September 2022 Nikhil pleaded guilty to initiating trades based on confidential information obtained from his brother and is currently serving 10 months in prison for wire fraud conspiracy charges after being sentenced on Jan. 10.
Because of his position at Coinbase, prosecutors alleged Ishan knew when the exchange would be listing new cryptocurrencies and informed his brother Nikhil and an associate of theirs, Sameer Ramani, prior to the asset listings being publicly announced.
The prices of the listed cryptocurrencies generally rose after their listing, netting Nikhil $892,500 in profit, according to prosecutors. As part of his sentencing, Nikhil was required to forfeit these funds to the United States government.
In a separate civil case, Coinbase defended the brothers and Ramani after the trio was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating antifraud provisions of U.S. securities laws.
In a March 13 amicus brief, Coinbase said that it condemns the defendants’ conduct but was supportive of a motion to dismiss the case as it argued the SEC had no jurisdiction to file a lawsuit given the tokens in question do not pass the Howey test — a U.S. legal doctrine that evaluates whether an asset is a security.
The SEC noted in an April 3 filing that it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Ishan to resolve the SEC’s claims and was also in “good faith discussions” with Nikhil.