Hinman documents suggest SEC is the wrong agency to govern digital assets, crypto lawyer says

On June 13th, the much-anticipated Hinman papers were uncovered and made accessible to everyone. The documents revealed provide useful information about a noteworthy address given in 2018 by Bill Hinman, who was the ex-director of the Corporation Finance division of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In his 2018 speech, Hinman expressed his opinion that Ether (ETH), one of the largest cryptocurrencies, should not be classified as a security. The documents of Hinman consist of internal communications within the SEC, which give a thorough look at the agency’s conversations and deliberations prior to and after Hinman’s speech.

Upon the recent release of the documents, Cointelegraph contacted John Deaton, a crypto lawyer and founder of CryptoLaw, to elucidate the importance of the documents.

In the interview, Deaton highlighted that the documents could back Ripple, Coinbase and other entities that he thought had been unfairly targeted by regulators. He suggested that these documents may not only sway public opinion but also potentially have an impact on legislative debates in Congress, as they bring up worries about the behavior of regulators and the understanding of existing laws.

In his words, he expressed that the documents were as anticipated in two regards. Firstly, it aids Ripple, Coinbase, and others who have been unfairly targeted by regulators who have not been following the law they swore to uphold. It is yet to be seen how much it will help in the courtroom, but it certainly helps in the eyes of the public and in the halls of Congress. Secondly, it emphasizes the huge conflicts of interest and clear appearances of impropriety by William Hinman and Jay Clayton.

Clayton, an American lawyer, held the position of chairman of the SEC from May 4, 2017 until December 23, 2020.

Regarding the effect of the documents on the legal dispute between Ripple and the SEC, Deaton commented that the documents themselves do not alter the judge’s evaluation of whether Ripple offered/sold XRP as an investment contract or XRP’s standing in the US secondary markets. Nevertheless, they do bolster Ripple’s assertion that Hinman’s remarks generated market confusion and impeded market participants’ comprehension of what was forbidden under existing regulations. He stated:

Deaton emphasized the potential implications of the documents on Ether and ERC-20 tokens. He proposed that the documents may strengthen Ether’s status by decreasing the possibility of it being labeled a security by the SEC. He elucidated:

In response to the documents’ overall implications, Deaton voiced his opinion that they demonstrate the necessity for Congress to step in and bring clarity to the regulation of digital assets. He added that the SEC may not be the best agency to oversee the crypto industry, considering the conflicts of interest and wrongdoings that the documents have exposed. He stated:

Deaton eventually asked for an inspector general investigation as to why Hinman continued to give the speech despite warnings from the SEC’s Office of the General Counsel and the director of trading markets. He pointed out that Hinman referred to the speech as the “Ether Speech,” which raised more concerns regarding potential biases and motivations. He commented:

Stuart Alderoty, Ripple’s chief legal officer, shared the same opinion as Deaton on the need for an inquiry. On his Twitter account, Alderoty demanded an investigation to determine “what or who affected Hinman, why any potential conflicts (or the appearance of conflicts) were disregarded, and why the SEC promoted the speech even though it would likely lead to ‘increased confusion.’”

Ripple submits its last document to the SEC as the landmark case draws to a close.

The publication of these papers has generated conversations regarding the part of regulators, the comprehensibility of current regulations, and the necessity of surveillance in the quickly advancing crypto sector. As the legal conflict between Ripple and the SEC persists, the particulars of these documents could have broader repercussions for the regulatory environment and those involved in the market.

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