Crypto firm Abra reaches settlement with US states for operating without licenses

FILE PHOTO: Illustration of bitcoin and price chart

By Hannah Lang

(Reuters) -Financial regulators in 25 U.S. states announced on Wednesday a settlement with cryptocurrency investment platform Abra and its CEO for operating without required state licensing.

As part of the settlement, Abra last year agreed to stop accepting crypto from U.S. Abra Trade account customers into its products and services, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) said in a release, after agreeing to stop making cryptocurrencies available for buying and trading.

Abra had said last year that it was winding down operations for U.S. retail customers, after facing a slew of enforcement actions from state securities regulators.

Under the terms of the settlement announced Wednesday, Abra CEO Bill Barhydt will not be able to participate in the business or affairs of any money transmitter or money services business licensed in the 25 states for five years.

Abra will also be required to refund up to $82.1 million to customers in the 25 states. The states involved in the settlement - including Washington, Texas, Georgia and Ohio - agreed to forgo monetary penalties in order for customers to be fully repaid.

“Abra is pleased to enter into a Term Sheet negotiated with a working group from the Money Transmitters Regulators Association regarding the Abra App that Abra previously offered in the U.S.," an Abra spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson noted that Abra continues to operate in the U.S. through Abra Capital Management, an SEC-registered investment advisor.

Barhydt said the company is "pleased that the state negotiations are behind us."

“State financial regulators take their role to protect consumers and prevent unlicensed activity seriously,” said CSBS Chair and Washington State Department of Financial Institutions Director Charlie Clark in a statement. “Companies that do not operate within the bounds of state laws will be held accountable.”

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in New York; Editing by Josie Kao and Andrea Ricci)