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Business News/ Markets / Cryptocurrency/  ‘Really an outlier,’ Coinbase CEO hits back at US SEC chair over agency's lawsuit

‘Really an outlier,’ Coinbase CEO hits back at US SEC chair over agency's lawsuit

After the US Security Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Coinbase crypto firm, company's CEO, called out at SEC chair Gary Gensler. CEO Brian Armstrong also ensured investors that their funds are safe with the company

Coinbase Chief Executive Brian Armstrong hits back at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler over the agency lawsuit at the Crypto exchange (REUTERS)Premium
Coinbase Chief Executive Brian Armstrong hits back at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler over the agency lawsuit at the Crypto exchange (REUTERS)

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong called out at US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler over the agency's lawsuit against the crypto exchange. Brian termed SEC Chair as an ‘outlier’ and assured that the funds are safe.

"The SEC chair is really an outlier," Armstrong said while talking about the ongoing lawsuit. He also mentioned that several other lawmakers he discussed the matter with were supportive of developing a clear regulatory framework for the technology.

The SEC has accused Coinbase of trading unregistered crypto assets and functioning as an unregistered exchange, broker, and clearinghouse. On Tuesday, Coinbase traded at least 13 crypto assets, alleged the SEC.

Notably, Brian Armstrong has been a vocal critic of the SEC and a major force advocating clearer crypto rules in the US. During a Bloomberg conference, he said that the company had approached the regulator about becoming registered, but received an "icy reception" from Gensler at their first meeting.

Crytpo as commodity, security, or currency?

Regarding the nature of the cryptocurrency in the market, there has been a lot of confusion about whether the crytpocurrency should be delt as commodity, security, or currency

SEC Gensler opines that most tokens constitute securities and has steadily asserted the SEC's authority over the crypto market. U.S. President's Working Group on Financial Markets has also said some coins linked to fiat currencies may be securities.

Several crypto companies, including Coinbase, differ from SEC's opinion of crypto as security. They have repeatedly called for the SEC to create clear rules. On Wednesday, Coinbase shares rebounded to rise nearly 3.1% to $53.2. A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment.

‘Binance artificially inflated trade volumes’ alleged SEC

The SEC on Monday took legal action against Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange. It accused the firm of selling cryptocurrency products without registering them as securities. It also alleged Binance artificially inflated trading volumes, diverted customer funds and failed to restrict U.S. customers from its platform.

Armstrong was quick to draw distinctions between the two cases, which he told CNBC "could not be more different."

"In Coinbase’s case, for instance, there hasn’t been any allegation of misappropriation of customer funds," he added.

Speaking to Reuters late on Tuesday, Paul Grewal, the company's chief legal officer, also said he was "confident" the SEC would not try to freeze Coinbase's assets, as it has done in the case of Binance. "The standards that are required for such an asset seizure simply don't apply in our case," he said.

Binance did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement on Monday, Binance pledged to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit, which it said reflected the SEC's "misguided and conscious refusal" to provide clarity to the crypto industry.

Settlement Breakdown

It was not the first time Armstrong, who co-founded Coinbase in 2012 after a stint as a software engineer at Airbnb, has taken aim at the SEC. In 2021, he accused the agency in a series of tweets of "really sketchy behavior" after it warned Coinbase it would sue the company if it went ahead with a planned lending program. Coinbase subsequently spiked the product.

Last July, Coinbase disclosed an SEC probe into its asset listing processes, staking programs and yield-generating products. In the first quarter of this year, Coinbase lawyers had been discussing a potential settlement with the SEC that would involve the company paying a penalty, and provide a path to registering with the agency, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.

But those talks broke down in March when the SEC made its position clear that fundamental aspects of the firm's business model were essentially illegal, the source said. Coinbase received a notice from the SEC that it planned to bring an enforcement action against the company the same month.

Crypto firm demands SEC to formulate new crypto-specific rules

Coinbase has been pushing the SEC to formulate new crypto-specific regulations since last year and in April asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to compel the regulator to respond. That court on Tuesday ordered the SEC to provide a response within a week.

Grewal said despite the lawsuit, Coinbase would still be interested in a dialogue with the SEC about how to bring cryptocurrency into the regulatory perimeter.

"If there were an opportunity for a real conversation, of course we would take it up, but I want to be very clear: Coinbase is absolutely committed to defending itself in court," he said.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Updated: 08 Jun 2023, 07:37 AM IST
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