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.

The Crypto Uprising The SEC Didn’t See Coming

by Roslyn Layton. August 31, 2021. (Forbes).

When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed its bombshell lawsuit against cryptocurrency innovator Ripple Labs in December 2020, it didn’t expect blowback. But during the pre-trial phase, Ripple’s legal team has put the SEC itself on trial after years of conflicting and confusing guidance on the rules for cryptocurrencies. No one expected the tsunami of legal, political and social media action from retail cryptocurrency investors, outraged by the betrayal from an agency claiming to protect their interests. The meltdown of the SEC’s credibility with this $2 trillion global investor community exposes a costly SEC miscalculation.

Indeed, official Washington has been back-footed by the size, scale and diversity of the crypto investor class and the industry they support. Lampooned by mainstream media and the U.S. government for years, the crypto community has built a media ecosystem that connects millions of investors, consumers, developers and entrepreneurs across the globe. It’s fitting that the pioneers of the blockchain economy would apply consensus protocols to their communication. This decentralized social media apparatus has proven powerful — just ask Congress after the backlash of the infrastructure bill over a badly written crypto tax provision. When the Ripple lawsuit was filed, that ecosystem galvanized an independent battlefront unexpected by the SEC.

Read the Full Article Here.

Is Ether a security? Why Ethereum might not be out of the water

By Steven Msoh. August 17, 2021. (Crypto News Flash).

Is Ether a security? This is a question that has been asked for years now, but to date, there has been no affirmative answer. A simple question it may look like from a glance, but the implications might be worth over $350 billion and could collapse an entire industry, given that Ethereum underpins many of today’s cryptocurrency projects. And while most people – from experts to price speculators – have considered Ethereum as exempt from being deemed a security, recent developments are putting doubts about the token’s status.

Hinman clarity, and why we can’t depend on it today

To date, the clearest direction has been given by William Hinman, the former director of corporate finance at the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission. Hinman was speaking at the Yahoo All Markets Summit in San Francisco in June 2018 when he made the clearest remarks yet as to whether the watchdog considers Ether a security.

Putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions.

Of course, Hinman also cleared Bitcoin from being a security. However, BTC and ETH were created and sold in different ways, making each coin’s case unique.

Read the Full Article 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.

The SEC’s Fair Notice Farce, Starring William Hinman

By Roslyn Layton. July 19, 2021. (Forbes)

Covering the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) ill-conceived enforcement action against Ripple Labs is never dull, and last week offered another development in the case. When the agency accused the San Francisco-based software company of seven years of unregistered securities trades by its distribution of the XRP digital currency, it unwittingly opened the door to replacing the SEC’s antiquated Howey Test for defining securities. Moreover, it appears that the judge agrees with the defense’s argument that the SEC failed to provide fair notice to Ripple (or any market participant) that XRP was, in the agency’s view, a security since 2013.

Throughout the pre-trial phase of the case, Ripple’s legal team has demonstrated that the SEC denied fair notice not just on XRP, but cryptocurrencies in general. When Ripple filed an intention to present a fair notice defense, the SEC launched a series of desperate filings to stop Ripple, knowing that if that defense is permitted, the trial case against Ripple will be dead on arrival.

Read the Full Article Here.

Ripple Labs Can Question Former SEC Official in Suit Over XRP

By Chris Dolmetsch. July 15, 2021. (Bloomberg)

Ripple Labs Inc. can question a former Securities and Exchange Commission official about the agency’s policy decisions as the company fights a lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors about its XRP cryptocurrency, a federal judge ruled.

The SEC sued Ripple, co-founder Christian Larsen and Chief Executive Officer Bradley Garlinghouse in New York last year, saying they had created a “vacuum” that allowed them to sell XRP into a market with limited information they chose to share. The agency alleges that the two men personally profited by about $600 million and ignored legal advice that the cryptocurrency could be considered an investment contract and therefore a security. It accused them of selling the virtual tokens without registering them as such.

Ripple has said the SEC can’t regulate XRP because, as a virtual currency used in international and domestic transactions, it’s a medium of exchange and not a security.

Read the Full Article Here.

SEC v. Ripple Key Hearing Today: John Deaton Offers Line of Questioning

By Rick Steves. July 15, 2021. (Finance Feeds) Judge Sarah Netburn will hold a hearing today to discuss the SEC’s motion to quash the deposition of former SEC Division of Corporation Finance Director, William Hinman. The scheduled telephone call, which was deemed “bad for Ripple” by attorney Jeremy Hogan, is expected to clear the way for the deposition on July 19 following Ripple’s re-notice as the defendant grows impatient.

The SEC argues that Ripple and its co-founders are unable to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” for the testimony of a high-ranking government official. John E. Deaton, the attorney who has previously filed a Motion to Intervene in the name of XRP holders, admitted that it is “a big deal to subpoena a former high-ranking official for a deposition in order to answer for his actions while in office”. But Hinman’s actions were clearly material for a precedent-setting case such as SEC v. Ripple, he stated, arguing in favor of the deposition. Commenting ahead of today’s hearing, Mr. Deaton offered a “quick, but not exhaustive, review of what XRP holders and crypto holders and investors, in general, deserve to know should William Hinman be permitted to testify under oath”.

Read the Full Article Here.

The SEC’s Baseless Utility Argument Lacks Utility

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

The SEC’s lawsuit against Ripple has been flawed from its inception. But few claims in the suit are more egregious than the allegation that XRP lacks utility, or that every XRP holder has engaged in a “common enterprise” with Ripple. These two allegations combined with the SEC’s central argument in their complaint, that Ripple’s offerings and sales of XRP represented dealings of unregistered securities, indicate that the Commission has failed to or chosen not to properly understand the fundamentals of crypto. Unfortunately, the community of XRP holders are paying the price.

Senior SEC Trial Counsel, Jorge G. Tenreiro’s statementnow, the court referenced a utility for XRP. We dispute whether that utility actually exists, your Honor,” during a March 19 hearing stands on even weaker ground than the SEC’s earlier claim regarding Section 5 violations. However, it became clear that Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn was more informed than the SEC had anticipated, based on her assertion that her understanding of “XRP is that not only does it have a sort of currency value, but it also has a utility, and that utility distinguishes it, I think, from Bitcoin and Ether.” If Judge Netburn and millions of XRP holders, along with companies like Ripple, BitPay, Spend the Bits, Japan’s SBI and others all recognize the utility of XRP, it seems the SEC is the outlier.

The open-source nature of XRP allows users throughout the world to use the token to pay for goods and services without any connection to or reliance on Ripple. According to Cryptwerk, over 1,300 companies currently accept XRP for payment across industries from business services to tourism and travel. After filing our Motion to Intervene in the Ripple case on behalf of XRP holders, I have been contacted by over 19,000 XRP holders from around the world, many of whom receive paychecks in XRP and use XRP-powered debit cards to shop for groceries and pay for gas. These people are not in “common enterprise” with Ripple, despite the SEC’s claims.

The SEC’s argument that there is no XRP without Ripple is not just flawed, it makes no sense. For many XRP holders, the SEC’s lawsuit was the first time they had ever heard of Ripple, leaving many of us to ask: What’s Ripple?

There has been no shortage of valuable insights from these retail holders who the SEC pretends to be defending. For example, one poll by Stedas Crypto found that of the 400 respondents, over 90% said that they did not think they were buying shares or some other ownership in Ripple when they acquired XRP.

If all of this wasn’t enough, then just look at recent cryptocurrency market movement and trends. China intensified a crackdown on crypto mining inside its territory and the bitcoin hashrate plunged 50%. The price of bitcoin fell 43%, dragging down prices in all the major coins including XRP. This fluctuation in XRP’s price could not be linked in any objective way to actions taken by Ripple or its executives. But what does the SEC argue?  It says that XRP has no utility other than serving as an investment contract with Ripple and all holders have entered into an investment contract where the value of this “investment” is determined by the actions of Ripple and its two top executives. Former SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, who filed the lawsuit against Ripple on his last day in office, also declared that bitcoin is not a security because its ledger is decentralized. And yet here we have the Chinese government demonstrating its tremendous influence over both the price of bitcoin with one action and, in quick succession, the prices of many other leading coins including XRP.

Now, the SEC referenced a utility for its case against Ripple and its executives. We dispute whether that utility actually exists, your Honor.

SEC Assault On Ripple Provokes Wider Debate

By Roslyn Layton. June 30, 2021. (Forbes)

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) bombshell lawsuit against fintech startup Ripple Labs is now a cause célèbre in the cryptocurrency community, but its sweeping implications about regulatory overreach against innovation is provoking principled debates in some of the country’s most influential policy circles. The Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Program (RTP), an organization dedicated to fostering discussion and understanding of regulation, featured experts in an event titled SEC v. Ripple Labs: Cryptocurrency and “Regulation by Enforcement” last week.

In December, the SEC sued Ripple and two of its top executives for seven years of distributions of the cryptocurrency XRP which the agency labeled as illegal unregistered securities trades. Ripple offers a global payments platform for some 2 million users worldwide for the XRP token and its fully decentralized ledger. The company ferociously disputes the allegations by making clear that the regulatory agency allowed billions of XRP tokens to circulate freely on global cryptocurrency exchanges for seven years without making such a determination, despite being asked in public and in private for that specific clarity for years. The SEC also alleges that XRP’s only utility is to be an investment contract in Ripple and that all XRP holders depend on Ripple’s actions to obtain a return on their holdings. The suit seeks to enjoin the registration of XRP as a security and preclude Ripple’s executives from participation in the market. 

Read the Full Article Here.