Leading Ethereum Blockchain Entity Files Lawsuit Against SEC, Requests Court Declaration That Token Is Not a Security

The legal wrangling between the crypto sector and the SEC, or the Securities and Exchange Commission, is getting uglier, with ConsenSys, a major protagonist of the Ethereum Blockchain, filing a lawsuit against the regulatory body in a Texas federal court. This legal action seeks an intervention to ward off a looming SEC lawsuit against the company regarding features of its popular MetaMask wallet. The lawsuit also seeks the court’s help in deciding once and for all the vexed question of whether Ethereum’s digital token, Ether, is not a security. The legal uncertainty hangs heavily on the crypto sector and puts a question mark on its very existence.

In an exhaustive 34-page legal filing, ConsenSys states that the SEC’s endeavor to exert control over Ethereum is both illegal and a threat to blockchain technology.

The complaint states,

“The SEC’s unlawful seizure of authority over ETH would spell disaster for the Ethereum network, and for ConsenSys. Every holder of ETH, including ConsenSys, would fear violating the securities laws if he or she were to transfer ETH on the network. This would bring the use of the Ethereum blockchain in the United States to a halt, crippling one of the internet’s greatest innovations.”

The lawsuit also alleges that SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has embarked on an aggressive enforcement policy directed at the big players in the crypto sector like Coinbase and Uniswap. The lawsuit particularly points out a campaign that involved a deluge of subpoenas asking firms and developers for documents related to their dealings with the nonprofit Ethereum Foundation, which supports the blockchain’s development.

The crypto sector is up in arms against Gensler’s tactics and has contended that the SEC has never provided clear rules meant for the distinct features of blockchain technology. However, Gensler negates this argument, saying that the existing securities laws are clear and sufficient, and that the crypto industry refuses to comply with them.

Gensler’s actions are full of contradictions since, in the past, the SEC had maintained that blockchain’s tokens, like Bitcoin, are not securities and hence beyond its purview. A senior official in 2018 had stated that Ethereum has reached a state where it is adequately decentralized, and further, the agency also gave the green signal for the launch of Ethereum futures trading—an implicit acknowledgement that Ether is a commodity. However, at present, Gensler is using a recent feature of Ethereum, known as staking, as grounds for the recent legal campaign.

The lawsuit was filed after the SEC issued a Wells Notice, which is akin to a formal letter warning that the agency intends to sue a firm and could lead to a settlement later. The SEC charged ConsenSys that MetaMask was operating as an unlicensed broker-dealer. MetaMask offered users a means to stake Ethereum on their behalf. Staking was a feature introduced in September 2022 on the Blockchain as a replacement for the energy-intensive mining process. The process involves a system of validators who pledge collateral to become trusted validators.

The SEC objects to the process of staking, which has changed Ethereum from a commodity into a security. ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin has called this account of the SEC “preposterous”.

Lubin said,

“The act of staking is really just posting a security bond so you can get paid to contribute labor and resources to help operate the Ethereum protocol. Now they’re trying to turn that into some sort of investment contract.”

Lubin also stated that the SEC’s actions will lead to a halt in the growth of the crypto sector and blockchain technology as a whole. Lubin feels that the SEC seeks to block pending applications by companies to launch spot ETFs for Ethereum, following the huge popularity of Bitcoin ETFs. The SEC is in fact trying to regulate a technology on its merits and it will only stifle innovation.

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Manoj Nair

Manoj Nair: With a decade of news writing across various media platforms, Manoj is a seasoned professional. His dual role as an English teacher underscores his command over communication. He adeptly covers Politics, Technology, Crypto, and more, reflecting a broad and insightful perspective that engages and informs diverse audiences.

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