The cryptocurrency industry scored an early victory in its court battle with US regulators when a federal judge ruled Thursday that the sale on public exchanges of a digital asset called XRP complied with securities laws.
For years, the Securities and Exchange Commission has argued that digital assets constitute securities, like stocks and bonds traded on Wall Street, and should be subject to the same strict regulations. Last month, the SEC sued two of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase and Binance, accusing them of trading unregistered securities to the public.
But Thursday’s ruling in a case involving cryptocurrency firm Ripple may complicate that argument and provide fodder for the cryptocurrency industry to fight back in court.
The SEC sued Ripple in December 2020, accusing the firm of violating securities laws in one of the first major cryptocurrency-related legal fights. In Thursday’s 34-page ruling, Judge Analisa Torres of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York said Ripple did not break the law when the cryptocurrency it created, XRP, was sold on public exchanges.
The ruling was not a complete victory for the industry. Judge Torres also found that Ripple had violated securities law when he sold XRP to institutional investors, such as sophisticated hedge funds.
An SEC spokesman said in a statement that the agency was reviewing the decision. “We are pleased that the court has found that Ripple offered and sold XRP tokens as investment contracts in violation of securities laws in certain circumstances,” the statement said.
A Ripple representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ripple was founded in 2012 by a group of developers that includes chris larsen, who has long been ranked among the world’s richest crypto executives. The company’s mission was to facilitate international payments using the XRP token.
Over the years, the token became one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies on the market, and Ripple developed a loyal following online. But the SEC’s lawsuit cast a shadow over the company.
The resolution of the case had been widely anticipated in the cryptocurrency industry, and top executives hailed Judge Torres’ ruling as a major victory.
“A big win today,” Ripple’s legal director Stuart Alderoty, wrote On twitter. “Sales on the stock market are not values.”
Tyler Winklevoss, one of the founders of the Gemini exchange, tweeted“Goodbye Gary,” a reference to Gary Gensler, the SEC chairman who spearheaded the government’s crackdown on the crypto industry.
But Ripple’s ruling does not mean that the crypto industry will win its other cases. In the lawsuits against Binance and Coinbase, the SEC argued that a broad list of cryptocurrencies constitute securities. Judges in those cases will have to make separate determinations about whether the sale of those digital assets violated the law.