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Coinbase and SEC Await U.S. Judge’s Decision on Securities Law Applicability to Listings

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is now considering whether to dismiss the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) case against Coinbase. The crucial question revolves around whether transactions involving a dozen tokens on Coinbase should be classified as unregistered securities.

In a recent court hearing, both the SEC and Coinbase agreed that the tokens themselves are not securities. The SEC argues that each trade represents an investor entering a token ecosystem with the expectation of sharing in its gains, potentially constituting an investment contract. Coinbase, on the other hand, contends that these are secondary-market trades without a contractual obligation and, thus, should not be considered securities.

Coinbase seeks the dismissal of the SEC’s allegations of breaking securities laws. Judge Katherine Polk Failla did not make an immediate decision but went through extensive questioning challenging the positions of both the SEC and Coinbase. The judge’s eventual decision, expected in the coming weeks, will influence the SEC’s pursuit of crypto platforms as unregistered exchanges dealing in unregistered securities.

The outcome may either reinforce the SEC’s stance or contribute to legal setbacks, reinforcing the industry’s view that the regulator is overreaching. Similar cases against other exchanges, such as Binance and Kraken, could also be influenced by Judge Failla’s decision.

During the hearing, the SEC argued that obtaining digital assets through any means represents a contract, and the token is essential to enter the ecosystem. Coinbase countered, stating that an “investment contract” defined by the Howey test requires a contractual obligation between the token issuer and the buyer, asserting that this is a pure question of law.

The judge did not disclose her stance but acknowledged the complexity of the case, stating, “This is a hard question.” The industry closely watches this case, given its potential impact on the regulatory landscape for crypto exchanges and the definition of securities in the digital asset space.

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