The SEC Came to Destroy Crypto, Not to Regulate It

By Roslyn Layton. (DC Journal). April 3, 2024.

Following the Securities and Exchange Commission’s effort to stretch, bend and twist the law to grant itself authority to regulate cryptocurrencies has been like watching an exhausting video game. By the last level, the monster has grown so grotesque and ridiculous that you’re just waiting for the relief of seeing it explode so the comforting words “game over” can finally appear.

Unfortunately, it’s not a game for many innovative U.S. Financial Tech companies. The SEC has mobilized all its resources to carry out a policy against crypto companies that is not designed to protect investors from fraud or even to clarify what legal compliance means. It is practicing what professor J.W. Verret of George Mason University has called “enforcement by destruction,” trying to turn courts into execution chambers for an industry it never intended to regulate but to destroy.

It comes down to a bait-and-switch strategy by two successive SEC chairmen to claim that every digital asset, no matter how it is designed, is itself a “crypto asset security,” and that gives the agency full authority to require they be registered like stocks. Nothing in nearly a century of securities law provides the SEC such all-encompassing authority over an entire asset class. But the SEC’s strategy was never to prove this theory in court so much as to have a pretext to launch enforcement actions never meant to bring anyone into compliance.

Read the full piece here: DC Journal

The SEC Is Engaging In Regulation By Destruction

By J.W. Verret. (Law360). April 1, 2024.

The term “regulation by enforcement” was coined in 1990 by Harvey Pitt in his days as a Yale law professor, about a decade after he served as general counsel of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and before he became chair of the SEC. The warning was eerily similar to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address cautioning about the growth of the military-industrial complex.

Regulation by enforcement has become manifest in the SEC’s approach to the emerging technology of cryptocurrencies, using lawsuits instead of rulemaking to claim that all digital assets are unregistered securities and fully under the commission’s authority.

Pitt’s term doesn’t fully capture what the SEC’s strategy on crypto has evolved into: “Enforcement by destruction” is more apt.

Read the full piece here: Law360


J.W. Verret is an associate professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. He is a former member of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employer, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

Government’s Attack Vectors

By Kristi Warner

The government’s approach to remedies and bitcoin mining are similar examples of agencies utilizing tools at their disposal to attack the crypto industry. 

Remedies

In July 2023, the SEC lost in the Ripple case on the main legal theories – Judge Torres ruled that secondary market sales were not sales of unregistered securities and XRP itself is not a security. 

Individual XRP holders got their resolution.

Now the case is really at a point where institutional sales and remedies are the focus. The SEC utilizes remedies and reliefs in many cases, and the type of remedies asked for typically varies based on the type of litigation. 

In the Ripple case, the SEC after losing on the legal theories, and vindicating the two executives still wants the company to pay a lot of money in remedies so they can hold the company “accountable”, and right any wrongdoing. 

The irony is that the people the SEC are supposed to be protecting (you and me) were not harmed by any of Ripple’s actions. Instead, it was the SEC’s action that resulted in restricted access, delistings and actual harm to us. 

That is because the SEC has weaponized its authority in an attempt to destroy innovation. Thankfully what we have been seeing in a lot of the cases are ourts keeping the SEC in check. 

The American Government was designed to be a system with checks and balances between the three branches. 

So while I agree we can look beyond the SEC v. Ripple case, I still think lawsuits in general are important to pay attention to as they are key to keeping the government agencies accountable and allow the industry to fight back. 

Bitcoin Mining

Another recent example of this is the RIOT Platforms and Texas Blockchain Council suit against the Biden Administration in a Texas court

The backstory is the U.S. Dept. of Energy had decided to conduct an “emergency” survey of the energy use by crypto miners based on its own unwarranted assertion that mining is a threat to the power grid. Allegedly the agency threatened companies with criminal fines and civil penalties if they did not answer the survey. The survey was requested without proper procedure established by law including public notice and comment requirements.

Once again we’re faced with a government agency trying to sidestep the law and bully crypto companies into submission by misusing tools at their disposal.

Solution

How can we combat that? 

In today’s world one solution to maintain the system of checks and balances is heading to Court. That’s what RIOT and Texas Blockchain did and while it was not the exact relief they were seeking, the lawsuit forced the government to halt their survey and destroy the sensitive and confidential information they had already acquired through the survey. 

Same with Ripple – they exposed government overreach by fighting back against the SEC in court. 

These are both huge blows to the government’s war on crypto because when these agencies are committing government overreach, the courts are putting that power in check and forcing them to follow the law. 

Watch the full livecast here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQxoBShe2CI&t=2s

Gary Gensler’s Blundering SEC Mirrors Biden’s Incompetence

By Gerard Scimeca. (RealClear Markets). March 6, 2024.

Touting historically low approval ratings rivaling that of paper cuts and hay fever, one might think Joe Biden and his handlers cared enough about voter sentiment to address the more problematic areas of his administration serving to inflame his unpopularity. 

An obvious place to start would be to cut bait with the capricious, reckless, and rogue Chairman at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler. That Biden has yet to remove the haughty Gensler is an affirmation of all that is wrong with his presidency and the SEC itself, whose continued bungling has drawn the ire of millions of American investors. 

After 10 years of denials, last month the SEC approved a number of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), even as Gensler himself continued to denounce them. While the occasion represents a watershed moment for digital assets in the U.S., the approval was given grudgingly by a Commission boxed into a legal corner.

Read more here: RealClear Markets

CryptoLaw: Looking Ahead

By Kristi Warner

Since CryptoLaw launched in 2021, we have accomplished so much as a community. John started CryptoLaw as a reaction to “gross government overreach” – his goal was to build a trusted platform that people could turn to for news, updates, and analysis on legal and policy issues related to digital assets and the cryptocurrency industry. Through the years, and all the cases, we have stayed true to that mission – we have been an advocate for digital assets, but more importantly we have been an advocate for the truth. 

Our plan for 2024 is to continue that mission. We are committed to holding government agencies accountable, shedding light on the revolving doors, promoting fair regulatory guidelines for the industry, and protecting investors every single day. 

As someone who has been with CryptoLaw since the start, and has seen what the platform and the audience behind it has accomplished, I am fully confident and excited for our future. We already have some big things planned for 2024, and we can’t wait to share them with you. Thank you for your support, CryptoLaw would not exist or be important without you, and we can’t wait for another ground-breaking year.

For more insight, please watch our recent livecast – CryptoLaw 2024: What to Expect

Ripple, SEC argue to the very end of years-long legal battle 

By Casey Wagner. (Blockworks). January 25, 2024.

The court has handed down its summary judgment and dropped the remaining charges in the case between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Ripple Labs. Despite these developments, the years-long legal battle is far from over.

Ripple and the SEC continued to spar this week over one of the final steps of the case: what documents the cryptocurrency issuer has to surrender so the court can hand down injunctions and civil penalties. 

The SEC has asked the judge to order Ripple to release its financial statements from 2022 and 2023, and contracts pertaining to institutional sales that are dated after the securities regulator filed its initial complaint in December 2020. 

Read more here: Blockworks.

Stop Ignoring the SEC’s Malfeasance on Crypto

By Roslyn Layton. (RealClear Policy). December 14, 2023.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairmen of both parties, Jay Clayton and Gary Gensler, have asserted regulatory power over digital assets and blockchain. They pursued a ruinous “regulation by enforcement” policy to punish innovators like Ripple, LBRY, Grayscale and Coinbase, while they coddled criminals like Sam Bankman-Fried.  Courts have pushed back, but only in those cases where litigants have the resources to fight the SEC, but there is no recourse for victim companies or individuals. The SEC is still immune to civil liability (what US House Rep. Todd Tiahrt calls “appalling bad faith”). Only Congress or the White House can stop the SEC’s illegal runaway regulatory train.

Publicly available evidence points to rampant conflicts of interest and ethical questions around senior SEC officials. Clayton and former Director of Corporation Finance William Hinman were revealed to have financial incentives to favor Ethereum over the rival network XRP, and the two officials moved to give the former a regulatory pass and file a blockbuster lawsuit against the latter on Clayton’s final day in office (Full disclosure: I filed a legal motion to compel the release of some of those documents which exposed Hinman’s conflicts.) 

Read more here: RealClear Policy.

A Sound Template for Crypto Regulation

By J.W. Verret. (DC Journal). December 11, 2023.

The last few months have seen a seismic shift in the crypto industry, putting the Securities and Exchange Commission squarely in the hot seat. The agency seems to have taken the wrong regulatory approach at every possible juncture: cozying up to fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried while excoriating crypto innovators and companies that seek to do business lawfully in the United States.

We’ve seen in the cases of SEC v. LBRYSEC v. RippleGrayscale v. SEC and others that the commission’s overriding desire to protect entrenched political interests instead of consumers facilitated the demise of well-intentioned companies, the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in consumers’ wealth and massive fraud going unchecked, like at FTX.

The courts have attempted to right the ship, pushing back on the SEC’s “arbitrary and capricious” rejection of its Bitcoin ETF and issuing a legally sound victory for Ripple on core legal questions in the SEC’s lawsuit against the payments company. In fact, the Ripple decision from Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York could be considered a roadmap for other crypto companies because she carefully laid out how and why the facts and circumstances of cryptocurrency offers and sales matter under existing securities law.

At its heart, this “Ripple roadmap” recognizes the nuances of how unique digital assets and their trading can be while still applying existing securities law dating back to the 1946 U.S. v. Howey decision, where the Supreme Court defined what makes a security.

Read the full piece here: D.C. Journal

Brad Garlinghouse Is 2023’s Comeback King With XRP’s Win Over SEC

By Jeff Wilser. (CoinDesk) December 5, 2023.

On a rainy Friday night in September, a crowd of thousands filed into Hammerstein Ballroom, the legendary New York concert venue. It’s a place that has hosted the Grateful Dead, Jane’s Addiction and everyone from David Bowie to Taylor Swift.

But the crowd wasn’t here for Taylor Swift. They were here for something far more important. They came for “The Proper Party.” The party’s raison d’être? Months earlier, the CEO of Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse, had promised that if they emerged victorious from the SEC’s lawsuit, he would throw a “proper party” to honor and thank the XRP community.

Again, the crowd roared. Garlinghouse pointed to a tall, bald, muscular, goateed lawyer, John Deaton, who in many ways embodies the heart and soul and brains of the XRP Army.

Deaton raised a fist in solidarity. Pumped the fist. The crowd cheered like he’s a rock star, and to them he is. It was Deaton (with the help of XRP champions like Brad Kimes and “Digital Asset Investor“) who rallied the XRP community to petition the judge that, actually, they were buying XRP (not Ripple) and had never even heard of Ripple, thus (they argue) weakening the SEC’s argument. We’ll never know to what extent this factored in Judge Torres’ decision, but it’s possible that the XRP community saved the day.

So you could make the case that this 2023 Most Influential award should be given not just to Garlinghouse, but also the entire XRP Army.

Read the full article here: CoinDesk

How Ripple Execs’ Grit & Litigation Forced SEC To Back Down

By Aislinn Keely. (Law360). October 27, 2023.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission called off a looming trial against executives of blockchain firm Ripple this month after counsel at Cleary and Paul Weiss made clear their clients were eager to have their day in court and intended to force the SEC to face a record of evidence that didn’t support the claim the defendants knowingly violated securities laws when they sold Ripple’s crypto token.

It’s rare for the SEC to drop a case once it has brought a complaint, and the regulator made headlines when it did just that, dismissing claims that Ripple co-founder Christian Larsen and company CEO Brad Garlinghouse “aided and abetted” sales of Ripple’s digital token XRP to institutions.

Martin Flumenbaum of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, who represented Larsen, called the Oct. 19 dismissal an “unprecedented victory.”

Read more on the unprecedented victory here: Law360