The SEC Wants To See Coinbase In Court

The SEC Wants To See Coinbase In Court

9 months ago2 mins

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued Coinbase a warning letter on Wednesday, sending the stock plummeting.

What does this mean?

It’s no surprise that the SEC’s been keeping a close eye on cryptocurrencies ever since the spectacular collapse of FTX last November. And the fact the authority has issued Coinbase a so-called “Wells notice” – a final warning before a legal battle kicks off – shows that the watchdog has got bite as well as bark. The bone of contention here is whether crypto’s technically a security or nothing more than a currency of exchange: after all, it’s only securities that feel the intense glare of full SEC regulation. The authority’s doggedly insisting that Coinbase lets crypto be used as a kind of investment vehicle, while the firm’s saying crypto’s a whole lot closer to a commodity. Looks like one for the lawyers to battle out…

Coinbase stock
Source: The Wall Street Journal, FactSet

Why should I care?

Zooming out: Bad and good.

Coinbase's stock took a nosedive when the news broke. See, shareholders are worried that a regulatory defeat could lead to a wave of profit-slaying compliance costs. And tighter oversight could scare away crypto enthusiasts drawn by anonymity, and that tamped-down demand would drive down prices. But there might just be a silver lining: if the SEC comes out on top, Coinbase could rebrand crypto as a bona fide “investment”, and that just might endear it to some naysayers.

The bigger picture: Winner takes most.

Bringing buyers and sellers together has been the bedrock of countless success stories: think of Amazon Marketplace,, or even the Nasdaq. What makes these marketplaces such good businesses is that they enjoy something called a network effect – the more people who join, the more attractive joining becomes to other people, and so on. Exchanges like Coinbase work in the same way, and as the only publicly traded crypto exchange left in the US, that could work out well for the firm – provided crypto has staying power.



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