Coinbase will go public
Cryptocurrencies,  Regulation

Coinbase will go public with historic direct stock sale

The listing will make the U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange the first firm in the industry to become a public company by selling stock

Brian Armstrong pulled the trigger today, announcing that Coinbase Global will go public.

The leading U.S. cryptocurrency exchange intends to become a publicly traded company with a direct listing of its Class A shares rather than a traditional IPO.

This would bypass the investment bankers and other financial middlemen that generally run initial public offerings. 

In an extremely brief blog posting, Coinbase said that it will give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a formal S-1 registration statement, initiating the process of becoming the first company in the cryptocurrency industry to go public with a stock sale.

No timing was given. 

On Dec. 17, the firm announced it had filed a draft S-1. A day earlier, Coinbase revealed that it had added two new board members, including Cisco executive vice president and CFO Kelly Kramer, who will head up the board’s Audit and Compliance Committee. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen also joined the board.

Coinbase CEO Armstrong has announced a number of big moves recently, expanding its presence in Canada in December with a new office and buying blockchain infrastructure provider Bison Trails on Jan. 19.

Armstrong called that acquisition “an important step in delivering on our mission to create an open financial system for the world.”

Still, went through a rough patch in the second half of 2020, with a barrage of bad publicity that began with Armstrong’s announcement of an official apolitical stance by the company on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement. He called it part of the firm’s goal of being “laser focused on achieving its mission.” 

However, it led to an uproar internally as well, with roughly 60 employees reportedly taking an exit package offered as a result of the policy. It also led, indirectly, to a pair of harsh articles in the New York Times accusing the company of allowing an atmosphere of discrimination against black employees and another of underpaying female employees. The company denied the first allegation and said the second had been long rectified. 

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.