SEC Nears End Of ‘ETH Gate’ Investigation

  • February 16, 2024

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reportedly concluding its investigation into allegations of conflict of interest within its ranks, particularly concerning the regulation of Ethereum (ETH). The investigation, dubbed ‘ETH Gate,’ has garnered widespread attention, especially from the XRP community, which has long criticized the SEC’s approach to crypto regulation.

ETH Gate Investigation In ‘Final Stages’

Tristan Leavitt, President of the government watchdog group Empower Oversight, shared critical updates on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the SEC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) nearing the “final stages” of its inquiry. This investigation was initiated following Empower Oversight’s referral to the OIG in May 2022, highlighting potential financial conflicts of interest by SEC officials in cryptocurrency-related decisions.

A focal point of controversy involves William Hinman, former Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance, who, despite financial ties to the law firm Simpson Thacher—a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance—played a pivotal role in guiding the SEC’s stance on cryptocurrencies. Hinman’s 2018 declaration that Ether was not considered a security by the SEC raised eyebrows, given his undisclosed financial interest and the subsequent rise in Ether’s value.

Empower Oversight’s FOIA efforts unveiled that Hinman had consulted with Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and Joseph Lubin of Consensys before his infamous “Hinman speech,” despite guidelines to avoid such engagements. “Simpson Thacher is a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. Its cryptocurrency, Ether, is a competitor with others like Bitcoin and Ripple Labs’ XRP. So Hinman clearly shouldn’t have been helping guide the SEC’s enforcement decisions on cryptocurrencies,” Leavitt highlighted.

The president of the government watchdog also expressed his combativeness and declared that Empower is ready to sue the SEC if it doesn’t begin producing the documents by February 23. “The American people deserve transparency. The silver lining is that now we know one reason for the stonewalling […] However, whether the OIG report thoroughly addresses all the issues we raised remains to be seen.”

On the implication for a potential spot Ethereum ETF, Leavitt answered, “Unclear. We don’t know the scope of their investigation yet… but we are in the process of finding out.”

XRP Army Reacts

The issue has gained considerable attention in the documentary “XRP Unleashed” by Fruition Films, where legal expert John E. Deaton criticized the scenario as “regulatory capture 101.” Reflecting on the documentary’s insights, Deaton emphasized today:

We must have our ethics’ rules followed, and when they’re not, they must be enforced. America is at its greatest when we have a level playing field and we allow the best technologies and innovations to compete fairly. And we must ALWAYS stand up against gross government overreach.

The XRP community’s reaction has been one of cautious optimism. Influential XRP influencer Mr. Intuitive (@BlackberryXRP) remarked, “Last week: ETHgate is dead nothing will happen. This week: Investigation results coming soon.” This sentiment underscores the shifting perceptions around the investigation’s impact and growing attention.

Steven Nerayoff, known as “ETH whistleblower” who is currently preparing a fraud lawsuit against Ethereum’s founders, echoed a defiant tone: “I keep saying they will NOT bury this & we will expose them. I beat the SEC, DOJ, FBI & more. Unprecedented. I never doubted I’d win. Why? I never let them get into my head & I exposed their weaknesses. Don’t underestimate them or think they’re invincible. They’re not.”

As the SEC nears the conclusion of its ‘ETH Gate’ investigation, the crypto community remains vigilant, hopeful for outcomes that could foster greater transparency, ethics, and fairness in the regulatory landscape. The final report by the OIG is eagerly anticipated, with potential far-reaching effects on the future of crypto regulation and enforcement.

At press time, XRP traded at $0.56954.

XRP price
XRP price, 1-day chart | Source: XRPUSD on TradingView.com

Featured image from Shutterstock, chart from TradingView.com

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