Coinbase Fights to Access Documents Related to Gensler’s Private Communication

Coinbase Fights to Access Documents Related to Gensler’s Private Communication

US-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has challenged the SEC’s refusal to grant access to its chairman, Gary Gensler, ‘s private emails. 

In a letter addressed to District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla, Coinbase contended that Gensler’s communications are crucial for building its defense in the lawsuit.

The crypto exchange argued that the documents are relevant in understanding the SEC’s stance on digital assets regulation.

SEC Blocks Coinbase Demands for “Reasonable Discovery”

In April, Coinbase demanded that Gensler produce documents regarding his communications, stating they were relevant to the case. It also requested all SEC documents regarding cryptocurrency from as far back as 2017. 

Coinbase also asserts that the materials requested are relevant in determining whether the SEC provided sufficient fair notice in its enforcement actions. 

However, the US Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) opposed this request in a letter addressed to Judge Failla on June 28. The letter stated that Coinbase’s demand is not relevant to the case, “imposes an undue burden on the SEC, and strongly disincentivizes public service.”

It also noted that the exchange’s move is an “improper intrusion” of Gensler’s private life. Further, the securities watchdog demanded that the court squash Coinbase’s subpoena and issue a protective order against releasing the documents.

Gensler’s Communications Crucial for Coinbase’s Fair Notice Defense

Coinbase’s response letter argues that the SEC chair’s communications about digital assets and crypto exchange oversight are fundamental to its fair notice defense

The letter begins, “Mr. Gensler’s communications regarding the regulatory status of digital assets and exchanges during his tenure as Chair go to the heart of Coinbase’s fair notice defense.”

The exchange argues that Gensler’s private communications contain his views about digital assets’ regulatory status and what market participants think. It further said that Gensler shared his views regarding these matters multiple times, which is sufficient reason to probe him.

The lawyers cited Gensler’s 2021 statement when he appeared to testify before Congress in his third week as SEC chairman. Gensler had testified that there is no regulator to oversee cryptocurrency exchanges. He added that only Congress could enforce investor protection on crypto exchanges

The SEC asserts that Gensler’s statement referred to Bitcoin trading alone. However, Coinbase argues that the testimony and several other public and private communications provide context for its fair notice defense.

Before assuming the position as SEC chair, Gensler served in various influential capacities, and his role shaped the public’s understanding of crypto regulations. He was previously the CFTC chairman and was a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he lectured on blockchain technology, digital assets, and financial regulation.

Coinbase claims the SEC chair had made several public and private comments regarding digital assets’ regulatory status in his lectures, speeches, and emails.

In addition, Coinbase’s defense team says Gensler’s commentary on digital assets before and during his tenure as SEC chair are of equal importance in the case. 

In a July 3 X post, Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s chief legal officer, commented on the recent development. Grewal noted that the recent moves were in response to the SEC’s efforts to obstruct reasonable discovery in a legal battle SEC started.

We have responded to @SECGov ‘s effort to block reasonable discovery from Mr. Gensler in a case that it—not Coinbase—chose to file. Democracy, as well as due process, dies in darkness. We appreciate the Court’s careful consideration of this matter.

— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) July 4, 2024

In June 2023, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Coinbase for allegedly listing unregistered securities. The regulator also accused Coinbase of operating as an unregistered securities broker and violating federal securities law. 

Coinbase asserts the tokens listed in the SEC’s suit are not securities and are not within its regulatory jurisdiction.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not constitute financial advice. We encourage readers to conduct their own research and determine their own risk tolerance before making any financial decisions. Cryptocurrency is a highly volatile, high-risk asset class.

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