Coinbase’s Legal Chief Fires on SEC’s Crypto Regulation Approach

On July 8, Paul Grewal, the chief legal officer of Coinbase, tweeted a number of times about his displeasure with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) approach to cryptocurrency regulation. Grewal said that the SEC disregarded important legal precedents and principles, such as the Howey case judgement from the Supreme Court, which set the standards for what qualifies as an investment contract.

Grewal argued that the SEC has not considered the requirement of enforceable rights against an issuer, a key part of the Howey test. He also accused the SEC of disregarding the public interest and investor protection, despite having allowed Coinbase to list publicly over two years ago.

The tweets further claimed that the SEC is ignoring statements from its own Chair that there are no regulatory authorities applicable to cryptocurrency exchanges. Grewal also pointed out that the SEC seems to be overlooking recent Supreme Court warnings against regulatory overreach in areas reserved for Congress.

This public expression of frustration comes after a series of legal developments.

On March 22, Coinbase announced that the SEC had issued a “Wells notice” to the company regarding an undefined portion of its listed digital assets, its staking service Coinbase Earn, Coinbase Prime, and Coinbase Wallet. Despite this, Coinbase remained confident in the legality of its assets and services and welcomed a legal process to provide clarity.

On June 6, the SEC charged Coinbase with operating its crypto asset trading platform as an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. The SEC also charged Coinbase for failing to register the offer and sale of its crypto asset staking-as-a-service program.

In a June 17 letter filed in court, Coinbase’s lawyers criticized the SEC for continuing to avoid the company’s rulemaking petition, which calls for the establishment of a regulatory framework for digital assets.

Despite these disagreements, Grewal agrees with the SEC that many of these issues should be decided promptly as matters of law. He continues to advocate for fair and reasonable engagement from the SEC on digital assets.

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