U.S. Senators Berate SEC's Gensler for Agency's 'Unethical' Handling of Crypto Case

Republican lawmakers wrote to the SEC chairman, arguing that its misrepresenting of evidence against DEBT Box casts doubt on the agency's other enforcement matters.

AccessTimeIconFeb 8, 2024 at 7:12 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 9:18 p.m. UTC
  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is being targeted with criticism from Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee that oversees the regulator.
  • The agency has said it's trying to get a handle on its enforcement practices that led to missteps in a court case against a crypto firm, but the lawmakers question what it means for other ongoing cases.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's admission that it misrepresented evidence in a lawsuit against the blockchain project DEBT Box casts doubt on its wider enforcement practices, several Republican senators argued in a letter to Chair Gary Gensler.

The commission's lawyers had misstated information in court and subsequently failed to correct themselves in accusations against Digital Licensing Inc., known as DEBT Box, that led the court – under the SEC's request – to freeze the company's assets. The agency's lawyers were rebuked by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby of the U.S. District Court in Utah, and the lawmakers are piling on to chastise the regulator.

"Regardless of whether commission staff deliberately misrepresented evidence or unknowingly presented false information, this case suggests other enforcement cases brought by the commission may be deserving of scrutiny," the lawmakers argued in the letter, dated Feb. 7 and signed by five senators on the Senate Banking Committee, including J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

"It is unconscionable that any federal agency – especially one regularly involved in highly consequential legal procedures and one that, under your leadership, has often pursued its regulatory mission through enforcement actions rather than rulemakings – could operate in such an unethical and unprofessional manner," according to the lawmakers, whose committee oversees the securities regulator.

The SEC, which moved to dismiss its case last week, said that "agency officials have taken and are taking broader corrective action to ensure the concerns raised by the court do not arise again, including holding mandatory trainings for all Enforcement Division staff involved in investigations and litigation on the importance of candor and the duty to promptly correct any inaccuracies."


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.