SEC crypto attorney departs for private firm



The SEC’s crypto and cyber litigation unit leader has resigned from the commission to join legal firm White & Case after contributing to lawsuits against two digital asset powerhouses. 

Ladan Stewart leaves the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after eight years at the Wall Street regulator and 18 months leading the watchdog’s first-ever litigation division focused on cryptocurrencies.

The law veteran was part of an SEC team tasked with suing digital payments giant Ripple for allegedly offering illegal securities in its XRP token. New York Judge Analisa Torres ruled partially in favor of Ripple, declaring that XRP was not a security when sold to retail investors. Crypto proponents regard the ruling as a pivotal victory for the whole industry.

Chair Gary Gensler and the commission have appealed this decision in court, recently winning a motion compelling Ripple to disclose its financial statements and XRP sales information. The move continued a years-long tussle between both parties.

Steward also spearheaded legal actions against Coinbase, America’s largest crypto exchange, following SEC allegations claiming the firm violated federal laws by operating as an unregistered securities exchange and broker-clearer house.

Coinbase challenged the lawsuit filed last June, denying wrongdoing and countering with a rule-making petition. It has been the industry’s view that the SEC has failed to provide clear rules for compliant crypto businesses, choosing instead to regulate through enforcement action and crackdowns. 

Gensler has said that most blockchain assets and cryptocurrencies fall under the purview of federal financial laws. The SEC rejected Coinbase’s rule-making petition, and the firm appealed the decision in response.

Stewart joins the law firm with plans to build a crypto and cyber defense framework. According to the former SEC lead litigator, crypto is here to stay, and legal issues surrounding the nascent industry will remain present for the foreseeable future. 



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