Ex-Coinbase Executive Ishan Wahi Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Insider Trading
Ex-Coinbase executive Ishan Wahi will spend the next 24 months behind bars as a federal judge has sentenced him to two years in prison in a cryptocurrency insider trading case involving his brother and a friend.
In a press release on Tuesday, May 9, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Ishan Wahi provided confidential asset listing information to his brother and a friend to make unfair profits by trading these tokens while exploiting his access to said information as a company executive, totaling up to $1.5 million. According to the DOJ, Ishan Wahi:
“Was sentenced by US District Judge Loretta A. Preska to two years in prison for providing Coinbase’s confidential business information about upcoming Coinbase crypto asset listings to his brother and his friend so that they could place profitable trades in advance of Coinbase’s listing announcements.”
Former Coinbase insider sentenced in first ever cryptocurrency insider trading casehttps://t.co/LdL0YKOUNU
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) May 9, 2023
DOJ’s First Cryptocurrency Insider Trading Case
Ishan Wahi, 32, was a product manager at the US crypto exchange giant Coinbase. According to the indictment, during his time at the exchange between October 2020 and April 2022, Ishan was involved in the highly confidential process of listing crypto assets. He had detailed information about the assets to be listed on the exchange.
Between June 2021 and April 2022, He “violated his duties of trust and confidence to Coinbase” on multiple occasions by leaking these assets listing information to his brother Nikhil Wahi and friend Sameer Ramani in advance of listing “so that they could secretly engage in profitable trades.” Following this listing, both of Wahi’s associates sold the crypto assets for a profit.
According to prosecutors, these tipoffs made three to rack up $1.5 million by trading 55 digital assets. On April 12, 2022, a well know crypto-focused Twitter account tweeted about an Ethereum wallet “that bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of tokens exclusively featured in the Coinbase Asset Listing post about 24 hours before it was published.”
Following the investigation, Coinbase called Ishan for “an in-person meeting relating to Coinbase’s asset listing process at Coinbase’s Seattle, Washington, office on May 16, 2022.” He agreed to appear. However, a day before the meeting, he booked a flight to India scheduled to depart the next day, shortly before WAHI was supposed to be interviewed by Coinbase.
He was stopped by law enforcement and prevented from leaving the country. He pleaded guilty in February to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His brother Nikhil also pleaded guilty to a wire fraud conspiracy charge in September and was sentenced to 10 months in January. Sameer Ramani is still at large.
The US SEC has also filed a case against the Wahi brothers for potential violations of securities laws. Court papers suggest that Ishan has reached an agreement in principle to settle the claims, while a settlement between Nikhil and SEC is in the process.
As reported, the former OpenSea product manager Nathaniel Chatain was convicted last week for NFT insider trading on the marketplace, which generated more than $50,000 in profits for him.