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Ripple Wins Right to Access SEC’s 2018 Ethereum Emails as XRP Case Rumbles on

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 3 min read
Source: iStock/isa_ozdere


Ripple’s protracted legal battle with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken yet another turn – with the firm winning the right to access a much-contested document containing quotes by an SEC official on the matter of whether or not ethereum (ETH) is a security.

The document contains the text of a 2018 speech that was delivered by a former leading SEC official named William Hinman. The latter, in the speech, explained that ETH could not be classed as a security due to the fact that it was appropriately decentralized.

The SEC has accused Ripple officials of selling the XRP token as an unregistered security, a claim the executives deny. Any sort of admission by the SEC that ETH is not a security, Ripple’s legal team claims, would help their case.

In a ruling, the presiding Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn, of the Southern District of New York’s District Court, stated that SEC may no longer claim that document and the emails associated with it are “privileged documents” – meaning the Ripple team will be able to use it as evidence in the case.

Hinman, in the emails, had shared his thoughts on the contents of the speech, and the SEC had claimed that the exchange was “merely peripheral to actual policy formation,” and thus “privileged.” But Netburn ruled that “emails concerning the speech or draft versions are neither pre-decisional nor deliberative agency documents entitled to protection.”

She also noted:

“The personal views of agency employees are not protected by the privilege unless they bear on the formulation or exercise of policy-oriented judgment.”

However, Netburn did uphold the SEC’s request to withhold access to a range of other documents the Ripple team had requested, and appeared to suggest that some of Hinman’s claims in the emails were “opinion”-based.

Ripple failed in its bed, for example, to force the court to grant it access to communications between the then-SEC crypto chief Valerie Szczepanik and an official in the Treasury Department, in addition to a Szczepanik presentation to Michael Piwowar, the ex-SEC Commissioner.

Meanwhile, one of the Ripple executives’ lawyers, Stuart Alderoty, took aim at the SEC on Twitter, accusing the agency of trying to drag the trial out.

Ripple is hoping for a speedy resolution, but Alderoty says the SEC wants to ensure that the case drags on for as long as possible. Reacting to a speech by the current SEC chief Gary Gensler, the lawyer wrote that the SEC was playing “the delay card and using it to their advantage.”

Alderoty wrote:

“So much for ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ How about publicly committing to moving the Ripple case as ‘swiftly’ as possible with no more delays?”

He accused the SEC of using “regulation by enforcement to create an uneven playing field” and “picking winners and losers according to opaque rules they make up as they go along.” 

A group of XRP token holders has also been attempting to insert themselves in the legal case, arguing that their views are not being represented in the trial – despite pushback from the SEC.

At 08:18 UTC, XRP trades at USD 0.779 and is down more than 2% in a day, increasing its weekly losses to almost 8%. The price is still up 154% in a year.
Learn more: 
Ripple Makes ‘Good Progress’ in Legal Row With SEC, Says Brad Garlinghouse
Six XRP Token Holders to Speak in Ripple-SEC Case as Circle Gets Subpoena

One Old Presentation by Buterin Brings an Unresolved Ethereum Issue Again
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