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Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Slams SEC’s ‘Flawed’ Plan For Exchange Registration

Christian Encila 2023-06-15 16:45

Coinbase has taken a defiant stance against the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed definition change. In a bold move, Paul Grewal, the company’s chief legal officer, has accused the regulator of preemptively imposing its authority and basing its proposed rules on unsubstantiated assumptions about cryptocurrency jurisdiction. 

This clash between Coinbase and the SEC highlights the growing tension between the cryptocurrency industry and regulatory bodies, igniting a fervent debate about the future of digital assets. 

As Coinbase challenges the SEC’s proposed rules, it raises important questions about the balance between innovation and regulation in the evolving world of cryptocurrencies.

Coinbase Challenges SEC’s Proposed Definition Change

In a series of tweets, Grewal vehemently criticized the SEC’s proposal, arguing that it was “too flawed on process and substance to move forward.” At the heart of the dispute lies the SEC’s intention to extend the application of securities laws, as specified in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, to decentralized exchanges (DEXs), treating them similarly to centralized securities exchanges.

Yesterday we filed a comment letter on the @SECGov proposed rule that seeks to expand the definition of exchange to include DEXs. Tl; dr: this proposal should NOT be adopted, and certainly not before completing the threshold steps for any rulemaking. 1/11

— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) June 14, 2023

Grewal firmly expressed his belief that the SEC’s attempt to impose the same registration requirements on DEXs as those applied to national securities exchanges is fundamentally “impossible.” He contended that such a requirement contradicts the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the rulemaking process of federal agencies. 

Furthermore, Grewal argued that the SEC cannot evade its obligation to conduct economic analysis simply by asserting the lack of available economic data, especially when relevant data already exists.

Paradigm Joins Coinbase In Urging SEC To Reconsider Redefinition

Coinbase’s strong opposition to the SEC’s proposed definition change is finding support from other prominent voices within the cryptocurrency industry. Paradigm, a crypto liquidity network, has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the SEC’s move and has called for the withdrawal of the proposed redefinition.

In a letter to the SEC, Paradigm argued that decentralized exchanges (DEXs), particularly those utilizing automated market maker mechanisms, operate without any intermediating entity or individual between buyers and sellers.

Instead, these DEXs rely on algorithms to maintain balanced pools of cryptoassets, accessible to potential buyers and sellers. Paradigm emphasized that this key distinction renders the SEC’s proposed application of traditional securities exchange regulations to DEXs impractical and inappropriate.

With this in mind, Paradigm urged the SEC to withdraw its proposed redefinition of the term “exchange” and instead embark on a fresh consideration of how to adapt regulations in the context of decentralized finance (DeFi). The letter called for a rigorous economic analysis, genuine and extensive engagement with the industry, and a close examination of the statutory jurisdiction limits faced by the SEC.

As Coinbase and Paradigm unite in their criticism of the SEC’s proposed rule change, the debate surrounding the regulation of decentralized exchanges and the broader DeFi landscape intensifies.

Featured image from Matthew Cooley/Adobe Stock