Hinmann documents unsealed in Ripple vs. SEC case, Binance faces more regulatory headwinds | Weekly recap

During the past week, Coinbase and Binance encountered challenges due to increased regulatory scrutiny, coinciding with bearish market conditions following the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) charges. Binance faced additional regulatory obstacles on a global scale, while its US-based counterpart, Binance.US, successfully settled with the SEC, preventing a complete freeze of its assets.

The SEC also remained in the spotlight as a bill to remove chairperson Gary Gensler advanced through Congress. Significant developments also occurred in the SEC vs. Ripple case, as previously undisclosed internal emails about the Bill Hinman’s 2018 speech were publicly disclosed.

Binance faces international regulatory challenges

After being accused by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of potential violations of federal securities laws, Binance faced additional challenges on the regulatory front, extending beyond the United States.

The Cyprus arm of the exchange submitted an application to the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) requesting deregistration as a service provider in the country. CySEC disclosed this development, although they did not explain the motive behind this decision.

Subsequently, a report on June 16 revealed that Binance is preparing to exit the Netherlands. In an official statement, the company acknowledged its intention to withdraw from the country due to the inability to obtain the required regulatory license. This decision follows a penalty of $3.3 million imposed on Binance by Dutch authorities in the previous year for operating without the appropriate license.

News emerged on June 17 that French authorities were investigating Binance regarding potential involvement in money laundering activities.

According to circulating reports, the investigation into the company’s French unit began last February, with local authorities probing the exchange for potential unlawful actions.

Binance.US reaches a compromise with SEC

After the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to freeze the assets of Binance.US, the exchange responded by filing an opposition to the SEC’s motion on June 12. 

Binance.US argued that granting this motion would ultimately harm the very customers the SEC purports to safeguard rather than protect their interests.

After considering the arguments presented by the SEC and Binance.US, US District Judge Amy Berman declined to grant the SEC’s motion for an emergency asset freeze. 

Instead, he urged the SEC and Binance.US to find a mutually acceptable compromise that would safeguard the interests of investors without necessitating extreme measures. As a result, both parties successfully reached an agreement in this regard.

The consensus was an attempt to make a compromise that safeguards funds belonging to customers on Binance.US. As part of the agreement, Binance will repatriate all customer deposits to the United States, preventing Binance officials from accessing them.

In response to last week’s charges, Binance.US reportedly downsized its staff. While the number of affected employees remains unverified, sources suggest that approximately 50 individuals have been laid off, predominantly from the legal, compliance, and risk departments. 

Coinbase aims for growth amid regulatory scrutiny

Despite facing regulatory challenges from the SEC, Coinbase tried to broaden its reach and improve its offerings this week.

Coinbase partnered with Bitkey, a bitcoin wallet app developed by Block, to streamline bitcoin transactions while ensuring control over private keys. Thanks to this collaboration, Bitkey wallet users can now easily buy, sell, and transfer bitcoin using Coinbase Pay on their mobile app or hardware wallet. Although the project is currently in beta testing, it is set to be publicly launched later this year.

To provide incentives for users and adapt to the changing landscape, Coinbase Global opted to raise the rewards for USDC. Users can now enjoy an increased annual yield of 4% on their USDC balance, a significant boost compared to the previous rate of 2%. 

This week, sources also revealed that BlackRock was looking to partner with Coinbase Custody to facilitate a framework for a potential Bitcoin spot exchange-traded fund (ETF).

BlackRock has made progress in launching the ETF, and the Coinbase partnership is expected to provide the necessary infrastructure and security measures for the investment vehicle.

SEC takes center stage, refuses to provide clarity

The United States SEC also made headlines this week for its enforcement actions. A report from June 12 confirmed that the total number of crypto assets labeled as securities by the regulatory watchdog has now expanded to 67 following its charges against Binance and Coinbase last week.

These assets have a combined $100 billion valuation, representing 10% of the global crypto market cap. These labels have prevailed despite the regulatory uncertainty dominant in the United States.

Contrary to expectations, SEC chose not to decide on Coinbase’s rulemaking petition, even after a direct order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In documents disclosed by Coinbase’s chief legal officer (CLO), Paul Grewal, the SEC declined to commit to any deadline, suggesting that a recommendation regarding Coinbase’s petition could be provided within 120 days.

Subsequently, the cryptocurrency exchange submitted a request to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Paul Grewal request underscores the importance of addressing the SEC’s lack of promptness.

Bill to remove Gensler as SEC Chair gains support

Amid the regulatory issues surrounding the local crypto industry in the United States and the SEC’s persistent enforcement actions in the face of uncertainty, a bill to remove SEC Chairperson Gary Gensler made its way to Congress this week.

Lawmakers supporting the bill cite numerous cases of abuse of power as grounds for Gensler’s dismissal. Introduced by Tom Emmer, the Major Whip of the House of Representatives, and Rep. Warren Davidson, the “SEC Stabilization Act” seeks to restructure the regulator.

Ripple vs. SEC: Hinman docs finally unsealed

The Ripple vs. SEC lawsuit, which has spanned several years and involved multiple court orders, has finally resulted in unsealing internal SEC documents. These documents pertain to Bill Hinman’s 2018 speech and were requested by Ripple.

The documents disclosed that the SEC needed clarification among themselves on what a security is. In the conversations leading to the June 2018 speech, Hinman received warnings from several SEC officials that the speech might further exacerbate this confusion. However, the documents reveal that Hinman ignored these warnings.

In addition, the documents uncovered that Hinman would speak with Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, following the speech. This raised conjectures of a close collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation, seeing as Hinman specifically mentioned, in the speech, that ETH was not a security as it is “sufficiently decentralized.”

Ripple’s CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, responded in a video that the recently revealed documents expose the SEC’s internal discord when formulating cryptocurrency regulations. Garlinghouse also drew attention to payments received by Bill Hinman through his law firm, which had affiliations with parties having vested interests in his speeches.

Ripple’s CEO, Garlinghouse, stated that Ripple had been involved in discussions with the SEC about compliance before the lawsuit. They even talked to former SEC chairman Jay Clayton and Hinman, who indicated that XRP was not considered a security. Despite this, Ripple was surprised to receive a Wells Notice without explicit instructions.

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