Gensler’s Crypto Mess: It’s Time For Congress To Teach The SEC What “Clarity” Means

By Jared Whitley. September 16, 2021. (Seeking Alpha).

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is playing a ridiculous game with the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry and the millions of investors it claims it’s trying to protect. The agency insists there is “clarity” on the rules it applies to digital assets, but will only communicate them through lawsuits. It tells the best, most innovative U.S. blockchain companies to “come in, talk to us,” and share the details of their product development line under the false pretense of guidance on being compliant, only to slap them with subpoenas instead. Not even the highest-priced securities lawyers can tell these companies what compliance looks like with any certainty. It’s driving exasperated American innovators overseas, and putting our economic future in danger.

If previous SEC Chairman Jay Clayton was the “most conflicted chairman in history”, then Biden’s pick – Gary Gensler – is the most clueless. Ever since he was confirmed he’s been saying that the rules on what makes a digital asset a security are “clear” and that he’s dedicated to “protecting investors”. But ask any retail digital asset investor and you’ll know that nothing is clear and none of them feels protected by Gensler. Quite the contrary, they see Gensler as the danger they need protection from.

It doesn’t even help to register your blockchain enterprise with the SEC to list it on the stock market. Coinbase, the leading crypto exchange platform, went public earlier this year and subjected itself to the full SEC cavity search. It competes with many non-listed blockchain companies offering lending products who haven’t faced any enforcement action from the SEC. Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong shared his proposed lending product with Gensler’s people and they warned him if he started offering it, they’d drag him into court unless he registered the offerings as securities. He asked for guidance on why, and they refused to answer. A Wells notice followed, which is how the SEC warns you a lawsuit is coming. This behavior by the SEC was so shocking that some of Coinbase’s fiercest competitors rose to its defense.

Read the Full Article Here.

The SEC has told us it wants to sue us over Lend. We don’t know why.

By Paul Grewal, Chief Legal Officer of Coinbase. September 7, 2021.

Last Wednesday, after months of effort by Coinbase to engage productively, the SEC gave us what’s called a Wells notice about our planned Coinbase Lend program. A Wells notice is the official way a regulator tells a company that it intends to sue the company in court. As surprised as we were at the SEC’s threat to sue without ever telling us why, we want to be transparent with you about the course of events leading up to it.

Background

Coinbase has been proactively engaging with the SEC about Lend for nearly six months. We’ve been eager to hear their perspective as we explore innovative ways for our customers to gain more financial empowerment on Coinbase. Specifically for Lend, we’re seeking to allow eligible customers to earn interest on select assets on Coinbase, starting with 4% APY on USD Coin (USDC). We could have simply launched the product but we chose not to. This is far from the norm in our industry. Other crypto companies have had lending products on the market for years, and new lending products continue to launch as recently as last month. But Coinbase believes in the value of open and substantive dialogue with our regulators. So we took Lend to the SEC first.

What we’ve provided to the SEC

Coinbase’s Lend program doesn’t qualify as a security — or to use more specific legal terms, it’s not an investment contract or a note. Customers won’t be “investing” in the program, but rather lending the USDC they hold on Coinbase’s platform in connection with their existing relationship. And although Lend customers will earn interest from their participation in the program, we have an obligation to pay this interest regardless of Coinbase’s broader business activities. What’s more, participating customers’ principal is secure and we’re obligated to repay their USDC on request.

Read the Full Coinbase Blog Post Here.

When We Face the Government, the Crypto Community Must Unify and Rise

By John E. Deaton, Founder and Host, CryptoLaw.

The apparent defeat over the crypto tax reporting measure in the infrastructure bill was a vivid warning.  The U.S. government doesn’t know what it’s doing on crypto, but it’s taking action anyway.  A $2 trillion economic sector is too ripe a target for a government that has spent the last decade ignoring its extraordinary birth and expansion around the globe.  But their ignorance to the potential of these technologies has become dangerous, and no digital asset is safe anymore.

From Bitcoin Maxis to the XRP Army, there finally was a realization that we’re all in danger without a clear regulatory framework, one which puts guard rails around the regulators just as much as it does around the scammers and the criminals. I’ve said it over and over since last year – the SEC v. Ripple case is the most impactful SEC enforcement action in a generation because the agency is coming after all of us, not just XRP. They made a mockery of standards for due process and fair notice and erased $15 billion in value for the investors they said they were protecting in a case that had no allegations of fraud. Many in the XRP Army express resentment towards Ethereum because of the notorious William Hinman speech on Ether in 2018. Hinman classified the 2018 speech as personal opinion and went on to claim that the SEC has never declared ETH not to be a security in a recently filed sworn affidavit.

As the case against Ripple drags on it’s becoming increasingly clear that the SEC is more than ready to come after ETH without any warning for its 2014 ICO. Regulators can give speeches in front of a room of 1,000 market participants giving their blessing to a digital asset and then slap a lawsuit on any company and any investor the very next day and laugh at you for thinking the speech meant anything as they issue subpoenas for your bank records. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler offers no coherent message on the assessment of existing clarity in crypto. Concurrently,  U.S. senators who claim to support democratization of global finance also claim to support a ban on decentralized finance in all its forms and want to tighten the centralized control of money.

Everyone in the U.S. crypto space needs to see the big picture, and it’s this: we have to get out of our crypto bubble and start ensuring that our voices are heard by elected Members of Congress in every state and every district. They must be given notice that starting immediately, and tomorrow, and next week, that the crypto community is not some anarchic fringe or group of “shadowy super-coders”. We are people from all walks of life who believe in this technology and how it will transform the economy for the better.  We use digital assets of all kinds for a variety of important uses. We get paid in these coins, and we buy groceries and pay bills with them. We are building companies that use them to allow banks, companies and everyday consumers move money around the world in an instant at almost no cost, with better security and transparency than the banks. We are also investors, of course, and we want laws against scammers and fraudsters. The crypto community is not involved in crime and terrorism – we are law enforcement’s best allies in catching those people and bringing them to justice. We are that first group of true believers that every huge innovation needs to get off the drawing board and into the mainstream economy, sharpening all the benefits and working through all the bugs, building markets for how to use it and build on it.

That is the reality of our community that has been missing for the last decade in Washington, and it’s the only thing that is going to turn our situation around there. A million screaming tweets of incoherent anger are worth less than one sincere conversation with your elected representative about what crypto means to you, how you use it and what you need from them. It isn’t partisan, it isn’t ideological and it isn’t even complicated when it comes down to you and your story. 

A community as big as ours, built around decentralized technology, should know it can’t rely on a handful of lobbyists or a group of influencers.  We need to get to work today, and every day forward. I don’t care which coin you favor or which crypto “tribe” you’re in – everyone needs to do this.

The first action you should consider is to find your House member and your two Senators on Twitter, and tweet at them that you are a constituent and crypto is important to you. Then tomorrow, if you really want to scare them, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to their office. When they answer, very calmly tell them your name, that you’re a constituent, and you need to talk to someone about crypto and why it’s important to you. Those Members of Congress may seem like they don’t do much, but every one of them employs people whose only job is to listen to you if you’re from their district or state. They are usually very nice, thoughtful people who have those jobs. They have to listen to you. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, then take your story directly to U.S. officials on social media or call the U.S. embassy in your country. The actions they are taking are impacting all of us, everywhere. They need to hear it and understand it.

In the end, if they don’t understand who we are and what this community is about, they will continue to blunder their way through screwing up one of the greatest economic innovations in history and opening the door for the truly shadowy figures of global finance to crush it and all the good it will bring to billions of people.

Beyer Introduces New Legislation to Regulate Digital Assets

By Rep. Don Beyer (D, VA-8). July 28, 2021. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today introduced the Digital Asset Market Structure and Investor Protection Act, legislation that would protect consumers and promote innovation by incorporating digital assets into existing financial regulatory structures.

“Innovation in the digital asset sector is creating new goods and services every day as well as many new, high-quality jobs. The United States should provide a legal and regulatory environment which promotes this type of innovation and growth,” said Rep. Beyer. “Digital assets and blockchain technology hold great promise, and it is clear that assets like Bitcoin and Ether are here to stay. Unfortunately, the current digital asset market structure and regulatory framework is ambiguous and dangerous for investors and consumers. Digital asset holders have been subjected to rampant fraud, theft, and market manipulation for years, yet Congress has hitherto ignored the entreaties of industry experts and federal regulators to create a comprehensive legal framework. Our laws are behind the times, and my bill would start the long overdue process of updating them to give digital asset holders and investors basic protections.”

Since the introduction of Bitcoin in late 2008 digital assets have evolved from technological curiosities into financial instruments used by millions of ordinary Americans. Today there are over 11,000 separate digital asset tokens in existence, with a market capitalization of over $1.5 trillion.  An estimated 20-46 million Americans own Bitcoin and other digital assets, and that number is expected to grow. Many of these digital asset market participants, who are primarily average Americans rather than large institutional investors, have been victims of theft during trading platform hacks, or been exposed to significant market manipulation or frauds such as ponzi schemes.

Digital assets have also been widely used for money laundering and other illicit purposes. For instance, in May 2021, the Colonial Pipeline, which provides gasoline to much of the eastern United States, had its computer system hacked and was forced to pay a $4.4 million ransom in Bitcoin, which is the preferred currency for ransomware attacks.

Read Rep. Beyer’s Full Statement Here.

Elizabeth Warren Wants The SEC To Kill Crypto. Gary Gensler Had Better Not Agree.

By Jared Whitley. July 23, 2021. (Seeking Alpha)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has made herself clear that she sees cryptocurrencies as “bogus private digital money” and a kind of social pestilence that needs to be annihilated through regulation. In short, she has no idea what blockchain technology is, what it does, how it works or why people use it – but it has to be stopped and she’s going to stop it.

Like many geriatric progressives approaching their sell-by date in Congress, Warren is so out of step that young progressives in her own party shake their heads at how wrong she is on this one.

But Warren is not some harmless grandmother yelling from her porch – she’s the chair of a Senate Banking subcommittee, and she can do real damage. In a recent letter to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, Warren not so subtly demanded that the agency start grabbing more regulatory power in order to smash U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchanges. Legal and industry experts believe that Warren colluded with anti-crypto zealots inside the SEC to write that letter as a Beltway power play, hoping to lock in the SEC as “the Terminator” before other agencies, like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), dare to legitimize the utility and benefits of this new technology. Taking a step back, it was an act of desperation by a faction of Washington dinosaurs that are poised to be on the losing side of history, and Gensler’s agency is in turmoil.

Read the Full Article Here.