Conflicting Rulings in Ripple and Terraform Cases Disrupt Crypto Market

Key Insights:

  • Judges’ contrasting views underline the unclear regulatory status of cryptocurrency in the U.S.
  • Market reactions to Ripple and Terraform rulings may be overly optimistic, adding volatility.
  • Nationwide judicial inconsistency will continue, perpetuating uncertainty in crypto regulation.

The cryptocurrency industry faces a roadblock in its celebration following the recent Ripple court ruling. Last month, Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York held that Ripple’s programmatic sales of XRP tokens were not securities. This decision lifted spirits across the industry, but Monday’s contrary opinion from Federal Judge Jed Rakoff threatens to rain on this parade.

Judge Torres reasoned that exchange buyers of XRP had no clue that their investments could benefit Ripple. She emphasized that most XRP purchasers weren’t investing in Ripple directly.

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However, this ruling only applies to Ripple’s programmatic sales and does not dictate the status of secondary sales. This gap in jurisdiction opened the door for Judge Rakoff’s conflicting opinion in the Terraform Labs case.

Contrasting Opinions and Their Impact on Crypto Regulation

On the contrary, Rakoff argued that all token sales, regardless of where they happened, contributed to the development of the Terraform blockchain. Consequently, they generate profits for all token holders. He stated that these representations would have reached individuals who purchased their crypto assets on secondary markets.

“These representations would presumably have reached individuals who purchased their crypto assets on secondary markets and indeed motivated those purchases as much as it did institutional investors,” Radkoff commented.

Accordingly, legal pundits warned that neither of these opinions establishes a definitive legal standard. They also cautioned industry players to take these rulings with a grain of salt.

On the same note, Joe Castelluccio, a fintech authority at Mayer Brown, argued that the crypto market’s excitement following the Ripple decisions was excessively amplified, even before this week’s Terraform ruling. Castelluccio further stressed that the Terraform decision highlights the ongoing enforcement actions related to selling or trading certain digital assets.

“Even before the Terraform ruling this week, the enthusiasm in the crypto market following the Ripple rulings was overblown in light of the substance of the rulings themselves. The Terraform ruling underscores that there are many ongoing enforcement actions alleging that the sale or trading of certain digital assets constitutes a violation of the Securities Act and other U.S. laws.”

Moreover, Mark Hiraide, a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, shared a similar sentiment. He was particularly struck by Torres’ unconventional approach, calling it an unprecedented application of Howey.

In conclusion, the disagreement between the judges serves as a stark reminder of the lack of a clear precedent for crypto regulation. For a precedent to be set, either of these cases would need to go to trial and receive an appeal at the second circuit court. Even then, courts in different circuits are not required to adhere to the ruling.

Hiraide concluded by acknowledging the inevitable reality that nationwide judges will always have individual interpretations. Hence, the crypto industry must navigate this uncertainty as it awaits a definitive verdict.

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