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BitMEX: Staff laid off in ‘strategic move’ following failed acquisition

Digital currency derivatives exchange BitMEX will lay off a quarter of its global staff at the end of April, sources have disclosed. The move was reportedly partly orchestrated by founder Arthur Hayes who resigned as CEO after American authorities began pursuing and found him guilty of violating the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act.

The Seychelles-based exchange employs about 300 people globally, and as such, the layoffs will impact 75 people. They become effective at the end of April, although it’s still unclear which departments will be most affected.

Sources within BitMEX claim that the staff were informed of the move last week. 

In response, a BitMEX spokesperson confirmed the cuts and claimed it was a strategic move as the exchange seeks to position itself to expand beyond its derivatives business.

“BitMEX is making changes to our workforce in order to streamline for the next phase of our business. Our top priority is to make sure all employees who will be impacted have the support they require,” the spokesperson said.

He also thanked the staff members who will be laid off, saying they have been “instrumental in the remarkable journey BitMEX has taken from its roots as a small startup to one of the top crypto exchanges in the world. The BitMEX platform will continue to operate as normal, and we will not be commenting further at this time.”

The exchange has been on the news in the past year after U.S. authorities cracked down on it for breaching the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act. According to the authorities, BitMEX served U.S. residents for years without getting the required licenses and, in many cases, didn’t even conduct basic know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) checks. The exchange then claimed to have left the U.S. but went on to serve locals for years after, a fact that its executives knew all along.

Just recently, two of its founders and one former top executive pleaded guilty to using their platform as a means to avoid U.S. money laundering rules. Ex-CEO Arthur Hayes and ex-CFO Benjamin Delo agreed to pay $10 million each in fines even as they await trial, where they could be sentenced to a maximum of five years behind bars. Sam Reed, the first employee the two founders hired and who went on to become the exchange’s CTO, pleaded guilty to similar crimes less than a month later.

But even after resigning from his position as CEO in October 2020 and pleading guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, Hayes is still reportedly running things at BitMEX. He was behind the recent decision to lay off 75 staff members, according to sources. He reportedly believes streamlining operations will play a critical role in the exchange’s push to go beyond derivatives and offer spot trading, custody services and more.

“Arthur is taking a more active role in the company to effectively throw out what they have been planning and scale back everything,” the source claimed.

A BitMEX spokesperson confirmed that Hayes was in the loop on the latest changes, saying that the layoffs “were implemented with the support of all our founders.”

However, he sought to dismiss claims that it was Hayes who called the shots stating: “There is no change to the group’s management structure, which continues to be led by Alexander Höptner as CEO and his experienced executive team.”

Höptner joined BitMEX in December 2020, two months after Hayes resigned and took over from the then-interim CEO Vivien Khoo. He previously served as the CEO of Börse Stuttgart GmbH, Germany’s second-largest stock exchange.

In his biggest project since taking over the exchange, he led its proposed purchase of Bankhaus von der Heydt, a 268-year-old private bank in Germany. However, in the past week, the acquisition fell through

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—a from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShiftCoinbaseRipple,
EthereumFTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

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