Head of SEC’s Crypto Legal Team Exits for Private Firm

Brian Yue
Last updated: | 2 min read
SEC legal team
Image by Brian Yue, Midjourney

The leader of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) crypto and cyber litigation legal team has left to join private firm White & Case, according to a February 21 press release.

White & Case announced that Ladan Stewart had joined the firm as a partner in its white-collar defense group.

Head of the SEC’s Crypto and Cyber Litigation Unit


Stewart spent eight years in the SEC’s enforcement division and has led the Commission’s crypto and cyber litigation unit since September 2022. The unit was the first-ever specialized litigation department at the SEC.

At the SEC, Stewart led the lawsuit filed against crypto exchange Coinbase in June 2023, alleging that it operated without proper registration as a securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. She also played a key role in the prolonged legal battle between the SEC and the digital payment protocol Ripple, questioning whether its XRP token qualifies as an unregistered security.

A federal judge in New York ruled last year that Ripple’s XRP token is not considered a security when sold to the general public, a decision celebrated by the industry as a triumph. Despite this, SEC Chair Gary Gensler has opted to challenge the ruling by filing an appeal.

Gensler has been viewed as a strong crypto critic, holding the view that most digital tokens are securities.

Stewart Joins White & Case


In an interview with Bloomberg, Stewart said she planned to establish a crypto and cyber defense practice at White & Case.

“Crypto is here to stay—that’s become very clear with the launch of a slew of Bitcoin exchange-traded funds,” she said. “Given the complexity and the turbulent enforcement arena, legal questions surrounding crypto are going to be at the forefront for some time.”

Joel Cohen, the leader of White & Case’s white-collar group, said in the release that Stewart’s experience would be key in the firm’s efforts to expand its white-collar footprint.

“Ladan brings valuable expertise as we continue to strategically enhance our white collar, investigations, securities, and financial institution litigation footprint and capabilities in the US,” Cohen said. “Ladan’s most recent role as the head of the SEC’s specialized crypto and cyber litigation unit is a significant asset given the heightened regulatory scrutiny of the crypto industry in recent years.”

White & Case is one of the largest law firms in the United States with over 2,600 lawyers spread across 40-plus global offices. In recent years, the firm’s major clients have included Microsoft, AbbVie Inc., and GoldenTree Asset Management.