The SEC is pushing back on Ripple’s bid for access to emails and other documents that the crypto giant believes could bolster its case against the regulator.
The SEC, which sued Ripple in 2020 for failing to register $1.4 billion worth of XRP as securities, has refused to release emails related to a 2018 speech by former director William Hinman in which he argued the ether cryptocurrency was not a security. The speech sparked a rally in ether’s price and was interpreted as an endorsement of the industry’s view that cryptocurrencies are not securities.
A federal judge had ordered the SEC to release drafts of the speech and related emails, documents which Ripple says could shed more light on the agency’s deliberations on cryptocurrencies.
But the SEC on Wednesday argued in a letter to the judge that the communications were protected by “attorney-client” privilege, arguing that Hinman “communicated with the SEC staff to obtain their legal advice.”
“The question of ‘whether offers and sales of ether constitute securities transactions’ is indisputably a legal question,” the SEC wrote.
In a May 13 court filing, Ripple had argued that Hinman, who stepped down as the director of SEC's Division of Corporate Finance in late 2020, “was not a ‘client’ of the SEC’s lawyers for purposes of his outside personal activities.” In its letter, the SEC argued that Hinman delivered the speech in his role as a senior SEC leader, not in any "personal capacity."
The legal battle is expected to drag on into 2023 as the case enters its next phase. Filings and hearings on motions for summary judgment will extend to December. At that point, the judge will either decide the case or have it go to trial.