Kraken (bitcoin exchange)

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Kraken bitcoin exchange logo.png
Type Bitcoin exchange
Location San Francisco, California[1], United States
Coordinates 37°47′24″N 122°24′03″W / 37.790024°N 122.4008331°W / 37.790024; -122.4008331[2]
Founded July 28, 2011; 7 years ago (2011-07-28)[1]
Owner Payward, Inc.[2]
Key people Jesse Powell (CEO)[2]

BTC, ETH, [3][4] ETC,[5] DASH, GNO,[6] DOGE[7]

Fiat Currencies


Kraken is a US-based cryptocurrency exchange operating in Canada,[8][9] the EU,[4] Japan,[10] and the US, and "the world's largest bitcoin exchange in euro volume and liquidity".[11][12][13][14][15][10]

Kraken provides Bitcoin pricing to the Bloomberg Terminal.[16] In April 2017, according to reports, Kraken launched fiat funding options to transfer denominated US dollars and government-issued currencies.[17]

Throughout 2017, the Kraken exchange suffered from DDoS attacks and performance issues. In November 2017, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell apologized for the site issues, but praised security, citing its impeccable record.[18]

On 10 January 2018, Kraken suspended trading for over 48 hours while it performed an upgrade which was intended to take only 2 hours. Since first opening in 2011, this was the longest interruption to service.[19]


Several acquisitions of other bitcoin businesses have allowed Kraken to expand rapidly.

  • 19 January 2016 – the American Coinsetter and the Canadian Cavirtex[20][21]
  • 27 June 2016 – the Dutch CleverCoin[4]
  • 13 December 2016 – the American Glidera[22]
  • 1 March 2017 – charting and trading platform CryptoWatch[23]


2011 to 2013[edit]

One month before Kraken was founded, Jesse Powell had visited the offices of what was then the largest bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, to offer assistance in the aftermath of the first of two major hacks. Seeing how poorly Mt. Gox was run, Powell decided to found Kraken as a greatly needed alternative and to further promote bitcoin adoption into the mainstream.[24][25][26][27][28] In a Bloomberg News article, Powell is quoted as saying, “It was clear after that hack at Mt. Gox, when they were down for like a week, that the exchange is really the most critical piece of the ecosystem...I wanted there to be another one to take its place, if Mt. Gox failed.” [28]

Kraken launched in September 2013 with live trading after two years of development and beta testing. Initially the exchange offered trading between bitcoin, litecoin, and euro. Additional currencies and margin trading were made available to users over time, but only after critical analysis was performed, critical elements tested, and the user experience defined accordingly.[29][30]

In July 2013, Kraken joined other U.S. American leaders in the emerging payments and digital currency industry to form the Committee for the Establishment of the Digital Asset Transfer Authority (DATA). The stated aim of the committee was to establish DATA as the future self-regulatory body of the industry.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37] DATA held its first annual meeting in April 2014.[38][39][40]

Kraken became the first exchange to switch to the ISO 4217 standard currency code for bitcoin (XBT) in In September 2013.[41]

In October 2013, Kraken formed an exclusive partnership with BaFin regulated Fidor bank. Fidor provides Single European Payments Area (SEPA) payments for depositing and withdrawing from Kraken accounts.[42][43][44][45]

In October 2013, Kraken announced that it had discovered major flaws in the Namecoin protocol and would not list the cryptocurrency until they were removed. Former Kraken COO Michael Gronager, during the security analysis for onboarding the new cryptocurrencies, spotted a major vulnerability in the domain registration system and a bug that left .bit domain names susceptible to attacks and reassignment. Although the flaws were soon fixed and Namecoin was listed on the Kraken exchange, it was delisted two years later after a decline in its trading volumes.[46][47]

2014 to 2015[edit]

Kraken turned out to be one of the exchanges immune to the widely publicized bitcoin “transaction malleability” exploit that other exchanges (most notably Mt. Gox) were vulnerable to at the time.[48][49]

In a Fortune article, CEO Jesse Powell is quoted as explaining that the vulnerability was avoided by not relying on transaction IDs alone to track bitcoin transfers: “We knew that relying on TXID would eventually cause problems, so we built a more robust system of accounting. We never had to make a fix because we planned ahead and didn’t take shortcuts in the beginning.”[50]

In March 2014, Kraken became the largest exchange by volume for trading between bitcoin and EUR.[4]

In March 2014, Kraken received a US $5 million Series A investment led by Hummingbird Ventures. Other investors included Trace Mayer and Barry Silbert (Bitcoin Opportunity Fund).[51][52][53][54]

In April 2014, Kraken became one of the first bitcoin exchanges to be listed on Bloomberg Terminal.[55][56][57][58][59]

In July 2014, Kraken was part of a group of businesses that advised Mineyuki Fukuda (who was a member of the Japanese parliament at the time) and his IT committee on forming the Japan Authority of Digital Assets (JADA). JADA is the first Bitcoin regulatory body with government backing.[60][61][62]

In October 2014, Kraken formed a partnership with PayCash, a Luxembourg-based payment provider, to support both USD and British pound GBP funding to its clients. The new funding options coincided with the launch of bitcoin-GBP trading (bitcoin-USD trading was already available on the exchange).[63][64][65]

In October 2014, Kraken added support for JPY funding and bitcoin-JPY trading for clients residing in Japan.[66][67][68]

In October 2014, a collaboration was announced between Kraken and BaFin-regulated Fidor bank to create the world's first cryptocurrency bank. The stated aim of the initiative was to set up a fully regulated and licensed financial services entity and to pool financial services from different providers in the industry.[69][70][71] In an April 2015 interview, Fidor CEO Matthias Kröner said that the idea was discussed during a workshop in December 2014. 30 participants were invited to the workshop out of 250 applicants around the world. The hope was that one of the participants would step up and take the lead on the project, but since this did not happen, the project was put on hold.[72]

In May 2015, Kraken announced the beta launch of margin trading, becoming one of the few bitcoin exchanges to offer trading on margin. Initially the maximum allowed leverage for trading long or short was 3x (later raised to 5x).[73][74][75][76]

In May 2015, it was announced that Howard Bernstein had joined Kraken as Chief Compliance Officer. Bernstein has 20 years of experience in US financial regulation, including Merriman Capital Inc, where he helped to ensure that the publicly traded investment bank was compliant with SEC and FINRA requirements.[77][78][79]

In June 2015, Kraken opened a bitcoin pool of Dark liquidity (or “dark pool”).[80][81][82][83]

In June 2015, Kraken added support for CAD and bitcoin-CAD trading for clients residing in Canada.[84][85][86][87]

In August 2015, Kraken changed to a “maker-taker” trade fee model with reduced trade fees for Market makers.[88]


Six months after Kraken declared that it would not seek a BitLicense, the then newly established regulation for bitcoin businesses serving New York residents, the exchange was finally able to regain access to the North American market in January 2016 by acquiring the NY-based exchange Coinsetter. Additionally, before the acquisition, Coinsetter had recently consolidated the Canadian exchange Cavirtex.[89][90]

After its public refusal, Kraken expressed an intention to return service to New York residence pending the removal of what it perceived as unfair and counterproductive licensing. Coinsetter, announced to clients in December 2015 that it would thenceforth impose a $65 fee to offset the cost of the very same BitLicense Kraken refused to afford. In absorbing Coinsetter, and by extension Cavirtex, the following month, Kraken opened up its platform to residence of 37 other states, and to all Canadian residence to boot. Alongside this deal, Kraken announced partnerships with payment providers SynapsePay in the U.S. and Vogogo in Canada, in order to provide its newest clients with access to fiat deposits and withdrawals respectively.[89][90]

Just one month later, Kraken announced the completion of its Series B round of investment lead by SBI Investment, a prominent Japanese venture capitalist firm under SBI Holdings,[91] Following this investment round, Kraken announced two major acquisitions that year: Dutch exchange CleverCoin, which was acquired in June,[92][93] and Glidera, a wallet service allowing users to directly fund Glidera bank accounts with fiat for the purchase of cryptocurrencies on the Kraken exchange.[94]

Kraken’s reputation for security was challenged amidst 2016’s buildout of partnerships and acquisitions. Multiple claims emerged in the latter half of July via news media and social networks that clients’ accounts had been compromised and funds stolen.[94]

As Kraken went silent reportedly for investigation, users threatened to alert and petition the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Division for redress. Within a month, Kraken presented clarification that ‘Kraken’ was never compromised; that is, after internal investigation, the security team reached the conclusion that Kraken systems, servers, and databases were not accessed by malicious attackers due to any identifiable vulnerability for which they would be responsible.[95]

The company attributed affected users’ missing funds to phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks, and stressed the importance of enabling Kraken websites security features, such as two-factor authentication for withdrawals or the Global Settings Lock to restrict unfamiliar IP access. In the aftermath of the hack that wasn’t, Kraken asserted recognition of their continued responsibility to protect clients, and stressed equally so, the client’s responsibility in protecting him- or herself.[96]

2017 to present[edit]

On January 5 after seeing the Monero Market cap grow over 40x in 2016 Kraken made the decision to add trading support for it. Monero was the second anonymous cryptocurrency to be added following the previously listed currency Zcash.[97] Not long after Monero was listed Kraken continued to list additional crypto-currencies in the following months, such as USDT, MLN and Dash.[98][99][100] In March Kraken acquired popular website Cryptowatch a real time charting site for crypto-currencies that is often used by day traders. During the acquisition they also hired the founder of Cryptowatch Artur Sapek to help integrate Cryptowatch into Krakens systems and further the development of the platform.[101][102][103] In August Kraken listed Bitcoin Cash a hard-fork of Bitcoin with all clients that held bitcoin before the fork receiving an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash.[104][105]

In December it has been reported that Kraken was registering up to 50,000 new users a day.[106]

In April 2018, Kraken announced to shut its services in Japan, after operating since October 2014, by the end of June due to the rising costs of doing business there.[107]

Aiding Mt. Gox Liquidation and Investigation[edit]

Main article: Bankruptcy; stolen bitcoin

In November 2014, Nobuaki Kobayashi, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee overseeing the Mt. Gox liquidation, announced that Kraken was chosen to assist with the investigation of lost bitcoin and the process of returning remaining funds to creditors.[108][109][110][111] According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the trustee said that Kraken was chosen because of its proven operating history and because the company reports that its system has never been breached by hackers.[110]

Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy in February 2014. CEO Mark Karpelès said at the time that about 850,000 bitcoins had been lost, 100,000 belonging to the company and the rest belonging to about 127,000 creditors. Later Karpelès found about 200,000 bitcoins, leaving about 650,000 still missing.[111][110] An article in the New York Times pointed out that the process of returning funds could significantly benefit Kraken because creditors will probably have to create a Kraken account to get their money back and some of them might continue using the exchange.[111]

In April 2015, Kraken started accepting MtGox creditor claims through its website, a process which required creditors to create a Kraken account. Creditors could also file their claim through the Mt. Gox website. Kraken offered the incentive of up to $1 million USD in free trade volume to creditors filing their claim with Kraken.[112][113] On July 6, 2015 the trustee announced that the deadline for filing online claims was July 29, 2015.[114] However, the trustee did not at that time announce any deadline for the paper filing option.

As of the 09/09/2015 creditor meeting, the trustee reported funds secured for the Mt. Gox estate of 1,242,068,375 JPY and 202,159 bitcoins (together worth about $60 million USD at the time).[115] The trustee reported that he was still in the process of trying to secure more funds for the estate and that Kraken’s assistance in investigating lost bitcoin was ongoing. No date was given for when the creditors might expect to receive their share of remaining funds, but the trustee said that the date for investigating creditor claims was extended to the date of the next creditor meeting.[115]


New York Attorney General Inquiry[edit]

The New York Attorney General's Office began a fact finding investigation in April 2018 on the measures taken by cryptocurrency exchanges to protect their customers and fight market manipulation and money laundering.[116]

The investigation was not welcomed by Jesse Powell, the CEO of Kraken, who declared that the investigation was hostile and bad for business. Powell refused to comply with the inquiry.[117] . He claimed that market manipulation "doesn’t matter to most crypto traders," and stated that "scams are rampant" among cryptocurrency exchanges. The Attorney General's Office's final report emphasized Kraken's non-participation in the inquiry and referred Kraken to the New York Department of Financial Services for potential violation of New York’s virtual currency regulations.[118][119]

On May 15, 2018, Powell said that Kraken "would probably get registered as a broker dealer and then an ATS" with the SEC,[120] which would bring Kraken directly under the oversight of the SEC.


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External links[edit]