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Coinbase’s CLO Exposes SEC’s Troubling Practices: Misrepresentations and Tainted Orders Against DEBT Box

Last Updated February 13, 2024 3:34 PM
Teuta Franjkovic
Last Updated February 13, 2024 3:34 PM
  • The SEC’s admission of misrepresenting evidence in the DEBT Box case has damaged the commission’s credibility.
  • Republican senators are now questioning the agency’s broader enforcement actions.
  • Coinbase’s defiance of the SEC’s tainted freeze order and Grewal’s criticism expose the SEC’s potential for unchecked overreach.

Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s Chief Legal Officer, has issued several statements  on the ongoing legal skirmish between Coinbase and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Grewal’s comments  follow several Republican lawmaker’s address to the SEC chairman, asserting that the agency’s misrepresentation of evidence against DEBT Box raises questions about the credibility of the SEC’s other enforcement actions.

SEC Under Fire for Misleading Court in DEBT Box Lawsuit

Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledged misrepresenting evidence in a legal action against the blockchain initiative DEBT Box , casting shadows on its broader enforcement tactics. This admission prompted Republican senators to voice their concerns in a letter  to SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

The controversy centers around the commission’s attorneys incorrectly presenting information in court, coupled with their subsequent failure to rectify their misstatements in the case against Digital Licensing Inc., operating as DEBT Box. This led to a court-approved asset freeze of the company at the SEC’s behest.

The SEC’s legal team faced criticism from U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby of the U.S. District Court in Utah for these actions. This situation has intensified as lawmakers join in to criticize the regulatory body’s practices.

SEC Misconduct Calls Legitimacy of Coinbase Freeze Into Question

Grewal stated  that the senators have a deeper understanding of the situation than initially apparent. Following the SEC’s acquisition of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against DebtBox, Coinbase was instructed to freeze assets or risk facing sanctions. It has become clear that the SEC’s misrepresentations affected the order, indicating that the directive to Coinbase was similarly tainted.

Grewal also noted  that the SEC, instead of revoking its order after confessing to misleading the court, chose to remain silent. In response to this, Coinbase informed the SEC it would not comply further without a valid justification with no response  from the SEC. Coinbase has since corrected this by unfreezing the assets.

He argued  that a mere dismissal without prejudice and a brief training session are insufficient remedies for such a situation. Grewal expressed concern that if such issues can arise in a federal case under the supervision of a district judge, it raises questions about what might be occurring without court oversight. He concluded with a call for action, stating, “Enough is enough.”

SEC Responds to DEBT Box Misconduct, Vows Training and Reforms

The SEC, in response to its decision to dismiss the case , stated that agency officials have initiated and are implementing wider corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of issues highlighted by the court.

This includes conducting mandatory training sessions for all staff of the Enforcement Division involved in investigations and litigation, emphasizing the significance of honesty and the obligation to swiftly rectify any inaccuracies.

The SEC also mentioned  that sanctions were deemed unnecessary. Late last year, Judge Shelby directed the SEC to justify why its lawyers should not face sanctions. The Commission acknowledged that its attorneys could have been more transparent with the Court but argued that imposing sanctions was neither appropriate nor required to rectify those concerns.

The SEC’s emphasis on training and corrective measures, while perhaps a necessary starting point, may not fully satisfy those seeking broader accountability. Critics and industry observers will now watch closely to see whether the SEC follows through on its stated measures and if there are lasting changes in the agency’s culture and conduct.

This entire episode with DEBT Box could usher in heightened scrutiny over future SEC enforcement actions. Defendants and their legal teams might be emboldened to challenge aggressively even smaller misrepresentations by SEC attorneys, raising the agency’s legal costs and adding a layer of complexity to its legal actions.

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