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Coinbase Gets All Clear From Judge on BCH Insider Trading Allegations

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August 7, 2019 | 

681 Views | 

Darryn Pollock | 

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Popular US cryptocurrency exchange site Coinbase has avoided charges for fraudulently inflating prices and insider trading regarding its launch of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in December of 2017.  U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California (San Francisco) threw out claims by traders, but did hint at the incompetence by Coinbase. 

The exchange has had a storied history with the controversial Bitcoin hard fork. It first claimed it would not be supporting the cryptocurrency before changing its tune and offering support before the end of 2017. 

However, its launch was littered with allegations of insider trading and fraud, especially after the launch was botched causing trading to crash minutes after it began. Regardless, there has not been enough evidence brought forward, according to District Judge Chhabria to charge Coinbase or its directors with fraud. 

Insufficient evidence

Coinbase was accused through a class action lawsuit brought forward by trader Jeffery Berk in December 2017. However, it has now emerged that the plaintiffs have not got a case for fraud, but they may have recourse to charging Coinbase with negligence in regards to the BCH launch.

The plaintiffs identify three potential laws for the ‘unlawful’ prong: the Commodities Exchange Act, the FinCEN rules, and New York state regulations,” Chhabria said

He continued:

“Even assuming Bitcoin Cash is a commodity subject to the Commodities Exchange Act, the complaint does not sufficiently explain how the launch manipulated the market for Bitcoin Cash or for Bitcoin. Nor does it plausibly or coherently describe Coinbase and Armstrong’s motive to manipulate the prices.”

“Moreover, while the factual allegations paint a compelling picture of an incompetent launch by Coinbase, the complaint does not outline a coherent account of fraud by Coinbase, Armstrong, and Farmer.”

A chequered past

Coinbase has been under immense pressure with regards to its handling of BCH right from the off. When the coin forked off the Bitcoin blockchain in August of 2017 it was shunned by Coinbase. 

However, due to the coin being a fork, it entitles customers to equal amounts of BCH to BTC, and thus many threatened to sue Coinbase for denying them their haul. This saw the exchange flip its decision. 

However, Twitter was set alight with accusations of executives allegedly manipulating markets by buying up BCH based on prior knowledge of the plans. Moreso, when it was open to trade,  this produced a spike in its price, but it only lasted a brief moment as trading was shut down due to a malfunction on GDAX leaving users unable to sell at higher prices.

A case for negligence

It remains to be seen if this will be the end of this debacle for Coinbase as the insinuation from the judge is that there is the possibility of negligence being at the core of this poor launch. If negligence is the case, the punishment will be less sever, but still damaging for the exchnage. 

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