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Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase strikes a $100 million deal with New York regulators

Coinbase is a U.S.-based publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange.
Chris Delmas]
/
AFP via Getty Images
Coinbase is a U.S.-based publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange.

Coinbase, a publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange, will pay $100 million in fees because of "significant failures in its compliance program" that violated New York state laws.

Wednesday's announcement of the settlement between Coinbase and the New York State Department on Financial Services comes on the heels of other actions by other regulatory agencies to monitor cryptocurrency companies. Those efforts have gained urgency after the November collapse of FTX, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. Its former founder, Sam Bankman-Fried now faces multiple criminal charges.

The Coinbase settlement also comes a day after the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released a joint statement on the impact the agencies believe that crypto could have on banking organizations.

"Given the significant risks highlighted by recent failures of several large crypto-asset companies, the agencies continue to take a careful and cautious approach related to current or proposed crypto-asset-related activities and exposures at each banking organization," the statement reads.

In the settlement, Coinbase agreed to pay $50 million in penalty fees to the state, and another $50 million to ramp up its compliance program.

New York regulators found that failures in the cryptocurrency exchange's compliance program made it "vulnerable to serious criminal conduct, including, among other things, examples of fraud, possible money laundering, suspected child sexual abuse material-related activity, and potential narcotics trafficking."

These failures included an overly simplistic customer due-diligence program, a backlog of thousands of unreviewed transaction monitoring alerts, and other suspicious activity the exchange failed to properly investigate.

Paul Grewal, Coinbase's chief legal officer, told NPR on Wednesday that the improvement it is making in its compliance program now "outpaces every other other crypto exchange anywhere in the world ... our customers can feel safe and protected while using our platforms."

"Coinbase has taken substantial measures to address these historical shortcomings and remains committed to being a leader and role model in the crypto space, including partnering with regulators when it comes to compliance," Grewal said in an emailed statement.

Coinbase, led by tech-entrepreneur Brian Armstrong, boasts 108 million verified users across more than 100 countries, according to its site. There are $101 billion in assets on the platform, and $159 billion in quarterly volume traded.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.