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Big names in crypto challenge the SEC’s rules

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Features
Big names in crypto challenge the SEC’s rules

The crypto world is at a crossroads. Discover why tech leaders believe the SEC might be on the wrong path.

The world of finance is changing fast, especially with the rise of cryptocurrencies. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in charge of making sure things run smoothly and fairly for everyone. But, as new tech like crypto becomes popular, some big names in the business world think the SEC isn’t handling things quite right. 

Let’s dive into what they have to say about the SEC’s approach.

Musk, Cuban, and the SEC

As the constant debate over what constitutes “fair play” in the financial world continues, Elon Musk and Mark Cuban emerge as two defiant figures challenging the conventions set by the SEC. 

Elon Musk 

Known for his ventures like Tesla, SpaceX, and his recent rebranding of Twitter to X, Musk is frequently at odds with regulators, including the SEC.

His history with the agency is notable, especially the incident in 2018 where both he and Tesla faced a $20 million fine due to a tweet that the SEC found misleading. He went as far as referring to the SEC as “bastards”, especially after a settlement regarding his tweets about Tesla.

Now, Musk’s frustrations have grown over time, not just with the SEC but with regulatory frameworks at large.

He recently tweeted that our civilization is gradually being stifled by excessive regulations, and he strongly advocates for comprehensive deregulation.

Mark Cuban 

The billionaire crypto investor’s interactions with the SEC are underlined by his strong words, labeling the organization as “useless” and an entity that brings “ridiculous” lawsuits. 

These remarks stem from his brush with insider trading charges that were subsequently dismissed. Cuban also underscores the SEC’s ambiguous stance on cryptocurrency regulations, pointing to its inconsistent guidelines.

What’s happening now?

But it’s not just fiery comments that define their tussle with the SEC. Both Musk and Cuban, along with other concerned parties, have recently submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, pointing out the problematic nature of the SEC’s administrative proceedings that exclude juries. 

Their shared belief is that this approach infringes upon the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, especially highlighted in the context of the SEC vs. Jarkesy case. This collective effort of the amici curiae sheds light on a notable shift in the SEC’s methods. 

Between 2013 and 2014, the SEC began preferring its internal processes over federal courts, especially after a few unsuccessful insider trading cases.

While Musk is currently ensnared in another legal tangle with the SEC, both he and Cuban, backed by the amici curiae, remain steadfast. They argue that bypassing federal court juries goes against the SEC’s own mission and could, in turn, jeopardize the investors and markets it vows to safeguard.

The Ripple controversy

The SEC’s actions against Ripple and its native token, XRP, have sparked significant debates. Central to this discourse are two pivotal figures: Brad Garlinghouse and Stuart Alderoty, who have consistently voiced their discontent with the SEC’s approach. 

Brad Garlinghouse

As Ripple’s CEO, Garlinghouse’s critique of the SEC has been both profound and personal. He didn’t hold back when he accused the SEC of trying to “suffocate crypto” during the lawsuit against Ripple Labs. 

Moreover, Garlinghouse recently even mentioned the SEC’s dismissal of certain claims as a “stunning capitulation.” 

Garlinghouse didn’t hesitate when he suggested that SEC chair Gary Gensler‘s priorities seemed to lean more toward consolidating power rather than fostering a conducive economic environment in America.

Stuart Alderoty 

Ripple’s General Counsel Alderoty has echoed similar sentiments. He celebrated the dismissal of charges against Ripple executives as indicative of a “surrender by the SEC.” 

This isn’t all. Alderoty recently got explicit in his criticism of the SEC for its purported delay tactics in the case against Ripple. He has also expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the SEC Chair’s remarks on crypto in a congressional setting.

Brian Armstrong and the Coinbase saga

Brian Armstrong, at the helm of Coinbase—one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges—has found himself entangled in several regulatory disputes with the SEC on the grounds of clearer regulations around cryptocurrencies and their ancillary technologies.

A significant flashpoint was the SEC’s lawsuit against Coinbase, accusing it of trading in crypto assets that should have been registered as securities. 

Armstrong quickly challenged the SEC Chair’s stance, labeling him an “outlier” and underscoring Coinbase’s attempts to comply. Regulatory clarity remains Armstrong’s rallying cry. Fighting back against the SEC, he’s spearheaded initiatives in Washington to iron out ambiguities in crypto regulations. 

Moreover, Armstrong also underscored the need for a clear rulebook, especially in the face of actions like the Wells Notice from the SEC. He described such moves as counterproductive for the country.

His contention that the SEC had once advised Coinbase to trade only Bitcoin (BTC) further paints a picture of what he views as an over-restrictive regulatory approach. 

Taking to Twitter, Armstrong lamented the outflow of American investors and trading activity to more crypto-friendly jurisdictions, and he questioned the rationale behind penalizing U.S. companies for this shift.

Tim Draper’s quest for regulatory clarity

Tim Draper, a bigshot in the venture capital arena with billions to his name, has not been reticent about his frustrations with the SEC’s methodology in policing the cryptocurrency world. 

Draper’s open letter to the SEC regarding categorizing DAO tokens as securities underscores his proactive involvement in shaping discourse on crypto regulatory classifications.

Drawing parallels between the SEC’s tactics and those in Russia, Draper’s Twitter critique lambasts the SEC’s “regulation by enforcement” doctrine. He demands unequivocal regulatory frameworks, emphasizing a preference for proactive guidance over-reactive litigation.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Draper also accused the SEC Chair of damaging the U.S. with anti-crypto policies, calling for a new way of regulation. He emphasized that the SEC’s current stance discourages innovation and creates a confusing regulatory climate for crypto firms. 

Draper also mentioned that while crypto firms are open to clear guidelines, the lack of clarity and apparent arbitrariness in enforcement actions drive innovation out of the country.

Jeremy Allaire’s troubled relationship with the SEC

Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Circle, has been conspicuously vocal about the SEC’s modus operandi in cryptocurrency regulation. At the forefront of Allaire’s reservations lies the SEC’s treatment of crypto, which, in his view, has sown seeds of palpable anxiety within the market​.

Allaire’s assertive stance on payment stablecoins—like USDC, which are anchored to the U.S. dollar—highlights a rift. Allaire posits that such assets would be better managed under the watchful eyes of banking regulators, pointing to a foundational disagreement on regulatory jurisdiction​.

Further underscoring his concerns, Allaire has zeroed in on the SEC’s regulatory endeavors, particularly its pronounced focus on stablecoins. He perceives this emphasis as misplaced, suggesting that the SEC might be missing the forest for the trees in its regulatory quest​.

The road ahead

The relationship between the SEC and the tech world will be crucial as cryptocurrencies gain wider adoption. Ensuring their safe and equitable usage is a shared objective. Collaboration and communication between regulators and innovators are essential to keep the financial landscape in sync with evolving trends and ensure fairness for all stakeholders.