December 15, 2023

SEC denies Coinbase’s petition for rulemaking

The recent decision by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to deny Coinbase's 2022 petition for rulemaking has sparked debates within the crypto community. This article delves into the background of Coinbase's petition, the SEC's reasons for denial, and the implications for the crypto industry.

Background of Coinbase's Petition

In July 2022, Coinbase filed a formal petition, challenging the efficacy of existing securities laws in regulating digital assets. The company argued that traditional securities rules were incompatible with the unique nature of digital assets such as tokenized debt and equity.

SEC's Opposition and Discretion

The SEC countered Coinbase's perspective, asserting that the current regulatory framework appropriately governs crypto asset securities. The commission emphasized its discretion in determining the timing and priorities of regulatory actions, especially in discretionary rulemaking cases.

Gary Gensler's Response

Gary Gensler, Chair of the Commission, aligned with the SEC's denial, expressing disagreement with Coinbase's assertion that the current regulatory environment is inadequate. Gensler highlighted the ongoing initiatives within the SEC, suggesting that any alterations to the regulatory regime should be informed by the outcomes of these initiatives.

Coinbase's Argument

Coinbase's chief policy officer, Faryar Shirzad, had stated in the petition that the hurdle lies in the fact that securities rules do not effectively address digitally native instruments. This argument formed the crux of Coinbase's request for tailored regulations for digital assets.

Legal Battle Between Coinbase and SEC

Adding complexity to the situation, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Coinbase less than a year after the petition, alleging that the exchange operated as an unregistered exchange and offered unregistered securities. The two entities remain entangled in a legal battle.

Coinbase's Request for Regulatory Clarity

In April of the following year, Coinbase sought regulatory clarity by suing the SEC. The SEC, however, denied answering Coinbase's request, further escalating the tension between the two parties.

SEC's Statement on Existing Regulations

The SEC's position, as articulated by Gensler, is that the current laws appropriately govern crypto asset securities. This stance contributed to the commission deeming Coinbase's petition "unwarranted."

Chair Gary Gensler's Three Arguments

Gensler's alignment with the SEC's denial was supported by three key arguments. First, he disputed the notion that the application of existing securities statutes to crypto asset securities is unworkable. Second, he highlighted the SEC's ongoing efforts to propose targeted rules for crypto businesses. Finally, Gensler emphasized the importance of maintaining commission discretion in setting its own rulemaking priorities.

Commissioners' Dissent

Notably, commissioners Hester Peirce and Mark Uyeda dissented from the SEC's denial, expressing disappointment in the commission's reluctance to host essential conversations on crypto regulations. Despite the dissent, they signaled openness to discussions hosted by others and encouraged the crypto industry to propose rule changes.

Hope for Future Conversations

The dissenting commissioners expressed hope that interested parties would continue suggesting specific rule changes, guidance, and exemptions. They emphasized their willingness to listen and engage in conversations that contribute to the development of the crypto industry within the United States.

Industry-Specific Regulations

The denial of Coinbase's petition underscores the broader push within the crypto industry for industry-specific regulations. While legislative efforts in Congress have made progress, the SEC's resistance to tailored rules on the securities side remains evident. The Financial Stability Oversight Council's recent annual report suggests a need for congressional intervention with regulations in the crypto space.


  1. Why did the SEC deny Coinbase's petition for rulemaking?
  2. The SEC considered Coinbase's petition "unwarranted," citing the adequacy of existing securities regulations for crypto asset securities.
  3. What were Gary Gensler's arguments supporting the denial?
  4. Gensler disputed the assertion that existing securities laws are unworkable, emphasized ongoing SEC efforts to regulate crypto, and stressed the importance of commission discretion.
  5. How has Coinbase responded to the SEC's denial?
  6. Coinbase did not immediately provide a comment following the SEC's denial.
  7. What legal battles are ongoing between Coinbase and the SEC?
  8. The SEC filed a lawsuit against Coinbase, alleging it operated as an unregistered exchange and offered unregistered securities. The two entities are engaged in a legal battle.
  9. What is the outlook for crypto regulations following the SEC's denial?
  10. The denial highlights the industry's ongoing push for tailored regulations. While legislative efforts have made progress, the SEC's resistance suggests continued debates and potential regulatory changes.

Source: Blockworks & Coindesk

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