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Trial Set for First-Ever Case of Insider Trading Involving NFTs

LAB51 Feat Image_Trial NFT Court Case
By Dolma Memmishofer
Dolma Memmishofer

2 Min

April 26, 2023

According to Blockchain News, Nathaniel Chastain, a former OpenSea employee, faced two counts of wire fraud and money laundering in a case that had its first jury hearing on April 24th, 2023, in the Southern District Court of New York. The allegations against Chastain, filed by the U.S. Manhattan Attorney's Office on May 31st, 2022, claimed that he engaged in insider trading with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by using his insider knowledge to purchase 45 NFTs secretly just before their listing and selling them immediately after for a profit.

Chastain's legal team tried to eliminate any mention of "insider trading" from his charges, stating that the term pertains only to securities and not to NFTs. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argued that insider trading allegations can encompass various forms of fraud, wherein an individual with access to confidential information exploits it for trading assets. The characterization of NFT-related charges as "insider trading" is a novel occurrence, and the verdict of the trial could influence the legal classification of NFTs.

If the case results in a conviction for insider trading, it could set a precedent for similar charges in the future, potentially leading to NFTs being classified as securities.

Alma Angotti, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawyer, has predicted that if the case against Chastain for insider trading results in a conviction, it could have far-reaching implications. According to Angotti, such a conviction could potentially set a precedent for similar charges in the future, which could ultimately lead to NFTs being classified as securities. Angotti cited the Howey test, which is used to determine whether a financial instrument is a security, to support her prediction. Philip Moustakis, another former SEC employee, shared Angotti's concerns, stating that if the case against Chastain is successful, it could lead to the application of insider trading theory to any asset class.

The case highlights the need for clear regulations surrounding NFTs and cryptocurrency in general. The decision resulting from this litigation has the potential to establish a legal precedent regarding the classification of NFTs and exert a substantial influence on the industry's forthcoming trajectory.