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Coinbase Has Been Quietly Working on a Program to Police Its Markets

Coinbase has brought on a former NYSE exec to build out a platform to monitor its crypto markets. It's the latest sign that crypto trading venues are aiming to look more like equity markets to mollify regulators' anxieties.

Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange operator, is building out a platform to better monitor its markets.  The San Francisco-based firm has brought on Peter Elkins, a former executive at the New York Stock Exchange, to lead the efforts. Elkins, who previously was head of market surveillance at the Big Board, is currently building out a team for the so-called Coinbase Trade Surveillance Program, Elkins told Business Insider in an interview.  The point of the new program will be to create a best-in-called platform to police Coinbase's markets, which include its retail brokerage and two professional exchange venues, Elkins said.  "This is similar to the projects I worked on at NYSE," Elkins said. "We are going to be deploying human insights and technology to weed out bad actors." It's striking that Coinbase is going in-house to develop such a program considering its New York-based rival Gemini opted to partner with equities exchange behemoth Nasdaq for its surveillance efforts.  ADVERTISEMENTAs Business Insider previously reported, Gemini is using Nasdaq's Smarts, a surveillance technology used across Wall Street, to identify unusual and potentially criminal trading behavior on its venue. Similarly, Coinbase's program will better identify unusual activity include spoofing, a way to manipulate markets by sending fake orders, as well as wash trading, Elkins said.  The news of Elkins' hire comes as questions of market manipulation in crypto markets have reached a fever pitch Notably, Bloomberg's Matthew Leising published a report examining more than 50,000 trades on Kraken's market that experts said raised red flags. Specifically, they said it was unusual that large tether trades failed to impact pricing on the venue. Kraken mocked the claims in the report in a blog post Elsewhere, academics at the University of Texas published a paper alleging that Tether was last year used to manipulate the price of bitcoin, propping up its run to $20,000 last December.  Regulators have expressed concern over the possibility of rigged markets in crypto. And the move by both Gemini and Coinbase illustrate the degree to which crypto trading firms are trying to mollify their concerns. The New York Attorney General's office in April sent out letters to 13 cryptocurrency exchange operators on Tuesday as part of his broader crypto fact-finding mission aimed at protecting investors in the nascent market for digital coins. His office is requesting information from crypto exchanges about manipulation, outages, consumer protection, and other issues. It could also help lure new investors to the market, says Jay Biondo, a product manager at Trading Technologies. "Having effective surveillance is a key selling point. Exchanges that announce that they are monitoring for spoofing, wash trading, momentum ignition, and other manipulative activity will likely attract more investors because those investors will feel more confident that they are trading in a fair and efficient market," Biondo said.  Prior to joining NYSE's market watch team in 2015, Elkins was a designated market maker on the floor of the exchange for over a decade, holding positions at both Barclays and LaBranche & Co.  He joins a number of Coinbase employees who previously worked at NYSE, including Christine Sandler and Eric Scro.


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