It’s time to end the SEC’s war on crypto

By Anthony Scaramucci. (Blockworks). June 6, 2024.

The American government is badly damaged — we need public servants who care more about right or wrong, especially when it comes to the crypto industry.

I’m not denying that there are reasonable questions about how crypto firms should be regulated. Many policy questions still require legislation to resolve. But, our current system is broken.

The Securities and Exchange Commission traditionally does not expose itself and its credibility to an appellate beatdown. But this SEC is different. This SEC and Chair Gary Gensler have an extra-regulatory anti-crypto agenda. And they are using their power to obstruct and delay the industry — imposing their own preferences where they can. 

Gensler may not like bitcoin. But whether you decide to invest in bitcoin is up to you, not the SEC. 

Read the full article here: Blockworks

Why The Securities And Exchange Commission Lost Its War On Crypto

By Dan Ikenson. (Forbes). May 28, 2024

From banning “non-compete” clauses to re-requiring “net-neutrality” to hyperinflating the costs of taxpayer-funded infrastructure with extravagant union giveaways, the Biden administration has overseen a massive expansion of the regulatory state. But amid this regulatory incontinence, which sows uncertainty, suppresses innovation, and retards investment and growth, there are encouraging signs that Congress, the courts, and US entrepreneurs are fed up with rule by executive fiat.

Take, for example, the escapades of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since assuming power, Biden’s approach to cryptocurrencies and related technologies has been to delegate and defer to an activist SEC and its crusading chairman, Gary Gensler. Chairman Gensler portrays the crypto industries as “rife with hucksters, fraudsters, [and] scam artists,” which, he seems to believe, excuses him from proposing and promulgating concrete rules, in compliance with statute, for the industry to follow. Instead, Gensler sees crypto companies as undeserving of such regulatory clarity, choosing to keep them off balance through a “regulation by enforcement” approach – aggressively suing crypto companies for non-compliance with securities laws without ever articulating what “compliance” requires.

In the absence of clear, legal pathways, companies in the digital asset space have taken their innovations and expertise to friendlier shores. Governments in places such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates have already established regulatory frameworks and their economies are certain to reap the benefits of the resulting financial and related technological innovations.

Read the full article here: Forbes

America Needs to Get Moving on Blockchain

By Peter Roff. (Cagle Cartoons). May 24, 2024

From the sublime to the ridiculous, America invents. From the airplane to Jell-O, and in between, we somehow understand intuitively what people want and figure out how to get it to them. That’s put us in a position to lead the transformation of the marketplace many times, most recently by our rapid adoption of e-commerce.

It’s time we did it again by applying that same innovative spirit to blockchain. Instead, we’re hesitating. This may be out of fear of the unknown, but that’s easy to fix. Blockchain isn’t complicated and shouldn’t be scary. At its core, it is a peer-to-peer communication technology that could revolutionize global financial transactions, especially those crossing international borders.

The quicker we adopt it, the faster we get to a more streamlined and efficient future. That’s in everybody’s interest. The value of money continually fluctuates. Digital networks must operate quickly for estimates of value at the time of purchase to be accurately preserved. The faster they move, the more precise, secure, and transparent those valuations can be.

Read the full article here: Cagle Cartoon

America Requires Regulatory Clarity Before Blockchain Bears Its Bounty

By Dan Ikenson. (Forbes). May 2, 2024

Innovation is essential to economic growth and higher living standards. Better tools and techniques that make us more productive are requirements of wealth creation. Still, innovation attracts its fair share of skeptics whose fears about where new technologies may lead are ripe for exploitation.

Helming the regulatory agencies in Washington, today, are many who seem to prey on fears about the nefarious misuse of technology or how innovation will send our jobs and way of life into obsolescence. Yet, with every new wave of technological uptake, the U.S. economy has created more and better paying jobs than existed before, owing to the increasing abundance produced and invested. Such progress would be impossible without entrepreneurs and their innovations.

Consider blockchain – one of the most important innovations to emerge from the financial technology revolution of the past couple decades. Blockchain is most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies—digital currencies that users exchange through decentralized computer networks—and is valued for its ability to reduce the time, cost, and security risks of transactions. But new and evolving applications will amplify the utility of blockchain in a wider variety of industries – that is, unless regulators kill it in the crib.

Read the full piece here: Forbes

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

Hinman Investigation: The Chance for the SEC to Get Something Right

By John E. Deaton.

It didn’t just take a village. It took an army of activists, lawyers and everyday citizens to demand, insist and even sue the Securities and Exchange Commission to be transparent. From the moment William Hinman got on that stage in San Francisco on June 14, 2018, to declare that Ethereum’s native token, Ether, is not a security, something just didn’t seem right.

Indeed, that speech didn’t appear on Hinman’s official SEC calendar. The SEC has also forcefully refused under several chairman – including current Chairman Gary Gensler – to ever prejudge the status of a digital token with one very glaring exception: Hinman’s speech on Ether.

After six years, many lawsuits and tens of thousands of messages flooding into Washington, we learned today that the SEC Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is “in the final stages” of an investigation into the clear appearance of impropriety and conflicts of interest around Hinman’s speech and his many actions as SEC Director of Corporation Finance. My further understanding is that the investigation will delve into how the SEC ethics staff handled Hinman’s documented actions, or failed to.

It started with hundreds of internet sleuths working together in what I call decentralized justice. We discovered quickly that Hinman’s annual financial disclosures at the SEC showed he was receiving millions of dollars in payments from his old law firm, Simpson Thacher. We also learned that Simpson Thacher was a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, a group with the sole purpose of promoting Ethereum. Dozens of videos were located that had Hinman and other SEC officials, as well as key investors and stakeholders in Ethereum, saying in their own words what was happening in front of the cameras and behind the scenes around what Hinman called “the Ether speech”. I put them all together in a Video Library on the CryptoLaw website, and the evidence of possible conflicts of interest took shape.

At the same time, the excellent legal team defending Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse and Chris Larsen against the SEC’s lawsuit on the XRP digital token were locked in a long discovery fight over getting the internal emails and drafts of Hinman’s speech. That took years because the SEC fought so hard to hide the Hinman documents, defying so many court orders to produce them, that Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn called them out for their lack of “faithful allegiance to the law.” As amicus counsel for 75,000 XRP holders in that case, I couldn’t agree more with Judge Netburn’s conclusion.

In August 2021, the government watchdog organization Empower Oversight jumped into the fight, with Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits when the SEC refused to comply. It took them years to force the SEC to produce the emails that proved how Hinman fought to receive million in payments from Simpson Thacher. They showed he was warned repeatedly he had a “criminal financial conflict” if he ever had any contact with that law firm, and he ignored them.

The Hinman emails obtained by Empower Oversight show he met over and over with Simpson Thacher, including with the head of their China office – Chris Lin – when his client had a pending IPO application before his division. The emails also showed direct contact between Joseph Lubin, one of the highest profile third party promoters of Ether, and Hinman before the 2018 speech.

In May 2022, Empower Oversight sent a referral of evidence about these conflicts to the SEC OIG. For almost two years, the group has been requesting internal communications about that referral and has been locked in litigation with the SEC to get compliance with those requests. That’s why today’s news confirming the OIG investigation is so important, and such a vindication for the thousands of people who have worked so hard to make this government agency transparent and compliant with the law.

I will not prejudge the SEC OIG’s investigation, nor should anyone else. They have pledged to give a redacted version of their final report to Empower Oversight, which means it will be made public for us to review ourselves.

But one thing is very clear. We must have our ethics rules followed by public officials like Hinman. When they are not followed, the law must be enforced. America is greatest when we have a level playing field and we allow the best technologies and innovations to compete fairly. And we must always stand up against gross government overreach.

This is the chance for the SEC to get something right for once. I hope the OIG issues a complete, fair and well-reasoned report which shows the kind of faithful allegiance to the law that the SEC Enforcement Division and Division of Corporation Finance have clearly failed to show to date.

Free XRP ‘Airdrop’ Advertised On X And YouTube Actually A Scam

By Matt Novak. (Forbes). January 2, 2024.

Have you been seeing ads for an “airdrop” of the cryptocurrency XRP on platforms like YouTube and X over the past couple of months? They feature Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse explaining how people can receive XRP for free if they just send a particular crypto wallet some XRP first. But it’s all a scam using artificial intelligence to make it look like Garlinghouse is saying things he never actually said.

I first noticed the scam ads on YouTube back in November, which is unusual because the social media platform has a number of safeguards in place to protect against obvious scams. But recently I’ve been seeing the ad so much on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it’s seemingly taking up half of the ads in my feed.

Read more here: Forbes

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

In Landmark SEC Surrender, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse and Executive Chairman Chris Larsen Are Cleared Of All Baseless Allegations

Business Wire. October 19, 2023.

Ripple, the leader in enterprise blockchain and crypto solutions, announced today that CEO Brad Garlinghouse and Executive Chairman Chris Larsen were cleared of all claims brought against them by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC voted to dismiss charges with prejudice – a stunning capitulation by the government.

This victory is the third consecutive triumph for Garlinghouse, Larsen, and Ripple, coming on the heels of the July 2023 ruling that declared “XRP is not, in and of itself a security” and a subsequent October decision to deny the SEC’s request for an interlocutory appeal.

“For nearly three years, Chris and I have been the subject of baseless allegations from a rogue regulator with a political agenda,” said Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse. “Instead of looking for the criminals stealing customer funds on offshore exchanges that were courting political favor, the SEC went after the good guys – along with our entire company of innovators and entrepreneurs – who are building a regulated business based in the U.S. We look forward to the day this chapter is closed once and for all, now that the SEC has dropped the curtain on their absurd theatrics against Chris and me.”

Read the full article here.