Kraken is Suspected of Violating U.S. Sanctions, the Treasury Department is investigating whether the crypto exchange allowed users in Iran to buy and sell digital tokens, said people with knowledge of the matter.
Kraken, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is under federal investigation, suspected of violating U.S. sanctions by allowing users in Iran and elsewhere to buy and sell digital tokens, according to five people affiliated with the company or with knowledge of the inquiry.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has been investigating Kraken since 2019 and is expected to impose a fine, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution from the company. Kraken would be the largest U.S. crypto firm to face an enforcement action from O.F.A.C. Sanctions against Iran, which the United States imposed in 1979, prohibit the export of goods or services to people or entities in the country.
The federal government has increasingly cracked down on crypto companies, which are lightly regulated, as the market for digital currencies has grown. Tether, a stablecoin company, was fined by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for misstatements about its reserves last year, while the Justice Department brought insider-trading charges this month against an ex-employee of Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange.
Scrutiny of the industry has risen in recent months as the crypto market went into meltdown and several companies, such as Voyager Digital and Celsius Network, collapsed.
Kraken, a private company valued at $11 billion that allows users to buy, sell or hold various cryptocurrencies, has previously faced regulatory actions. Last year, the C.F.T.C. levied a $1.25 million penalty against the company for a prohibited trading service.
In an internal conversation about employee benefits in 2019, Jesse Powell, Kraken’s chief executive, suggested he would consider breaking the law in a wide range of situations if the advantages to the company outweighed potential penalties, according to messages seen by The New York Times. The company has also been dealing with internal conflict over issues including race and gender, which were stoked by Mr. Powell.
Read more on: NYtimes (article might be gated)