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Unfolding the Ripple-SEC Saga: What’s Next?

By Romeo F.
15 Jul 2023
12 min read

The verdict is finally in. XRP is not a security anymore! Well, not for retail investors, at least. It’s a mixed win, but it’s a BIG win for the crypto community.

The lawsuit started in 2020 when the SEC accused Ripple of selling unregistered securities.

Let’s go over the timeline of the events in this saga and try to answer the big question: What’s next for crypto?

Ripple vs SEC Lawsuit

December 2020: The SEC filed a lawsuit against Ripple Labs and two of its executives, Brad Garlinghouse and Chris Larsen, alleging that they had raised over $1.3 billion through the sale of XRP—a cryptocurrency—in an unregistered securities offering.

September 2022: Ripple and the SEC agreed to bypass a trial and allow a judge to issue a summary judgment based on the evidence submitted.

July 2023: U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres issued her ruling in the case, finding that the sale of XRP on public exchanges did not constitute investment contracts, and therefore cannot be considered a security. However, the judge also ruled that the sale of XRP to institutional investors did violate federal securities laws.

The Judge also spoke in favor of Ripple allowing them to pay employees in $XRP and issue airdrops.

To break down the ruling, selling $XRP to retail investors on exchanges doesn’t constitute a sale of securities.

But $XRP sold to institutional investors as a means to raise capital will be considered as a sale of securities.

These were the primary arguments that the opposing parties put forth in the lawsuit:

The SEC: The SEC argued that XRP is a security because it was offered and sold to investors in exchange for cash or other consideration, and because it was marketed as a way to make profits.

The SEC also argued that XRP is not a currency because it is not widely accepted as a medium of exchange.

Ripple Labs: Ripple Labs argued that XRP is not a security because it is not an investment contract.

An investment contract is a contract that gives the investor the expectation of profits to be derived solely from the efforts of others. Ripple Labs argued that XRP is not an investment contract because it is a decentralized cryptocurrency not controlled by any entity.

The SEC can consider whether to appeal the ruling that all the XRP sold on public exchanges were not securities. However, since the case hasn’t gone to trial yet, there will be no appealing as of now.

While this is a major win, the lawsuit is still ongoing. But it has already made a significant impact on the crypto industry.

It is expected that other projects, tokens, and exchanges facing the same accusations will use the XRP lawsuit as ammunition.

Implications of the XRP lawsuit verdict

While we can’t predict how the entire crypto regulation saga will play out, we can anticipate some of the immediate consequences.

As we know already, Coinbase is knee-deep in its battle against the SEC as even they are accused of listing unregistered securities.

Coinbase’s Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal said publicly to sources like CNBC that he is confident that the XRP verdict will help them win their lawsuit against the SEC.

Based on the statement, here’s how Coinbase’s legal arguments could take shape:

XRP is not an investment contract: Coinbase might argue that since XRP is not an investment contract, most other crypto tokens are equally not investment contracts, because they don’t meet the four elementary requirements of an investment contract:

An investment of moneyIn a common enterpriseWith a reasonable expectation of profitsTo be derived solely from the efforts of others

XRP is a currency: Coinbase might also argue that since XRP is a currency, it is therefore not subject to securities regulation. Very similar to other tokens like $SOL, $ADA, $MATIC, etc.

The SEC has argued that XRP is not a currency because it is not widely accepted as a medium of exchange. However, Coinbase could argue that XRP and other tokens are increasingly being accepted as a form of payment and that it is used by millions of people around the world.

The SEC lacks jurisdiction: Coinbase can also argue that the SEC lacks jurisdiction over all crypto as they are global currencies and can’t be restricted on the whims of a federal agency. There needs to be a sufficient amount of evidence and logical conclusions to accuse cryptocurrencies of wrongful violations of federal financial laws, especially given the case that the SEC is hesitant to create new regulatory laws for cryptocurrencies.

So what the hell is Ripple anyway?

Now we have all known about the Ripple lawsuit for quite some time. But apart from that, most of the crypto community doesn’t fully grasp Ripple’s potential.

Let’s break down what Ripple is and it is different from the other blockchains.

The Ripple blockchain, often referred to as the XRP Ledger, offers a unique approach to facilitating financial transactions.

Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, Ripple is designed with a specific vision in mind: to revolutionize the global financial system by enabling fast and low-cost international payments.

Understanding Ripple Blockchain

Ripple's consensus algorithm, known as the XRP Ledger, forms the backbone of the Ripple blockchain. Unlike the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanisms used by Bitcoin and Ethereum, Ripple employs a different approach to achieve consensus efficiently and reliably.

The XRP Ledger uses a consensus protocol called the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA). In RPCA, a network of validator nodes validates and agrees upon the order and validity of transactions. This consensus process occurs every few seconds, allowing for fast transaction confirmation times.

In the XRP Ledger, there is no mining involved. Instead, a unique node list (UNL) is used, which consists of trusted validators chosen by Ripple. These validators maintain the ledger's integrity and validate transactions. The consensus algorithm ensures that the validators reach an agreement on the state of the ledger.

Overview of RippleNet and its role in facilitating transactions

RippleNet is a global network that connects financial institutions, payment providers, and other entities. It serves as the infrastructure that leverages the Ripple blockchain to enable fast and secure transactions.

Within RippleNet, participants can utilize various services provided by Ripple, such as xCurrent, xRapid (now known as On-Demand Liquidity), and xVia. These services enable financial institutions to access the benefits of Ripple's technology in different ways.

(Ripple has rebranded these services and now markets them under the singular “RippleNet”. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to the previous nomenclature.)

xCurrentw facilitates real-time messaging and settlement between banks, ensuring swift and transparent transaction processing. It provides end-to-end tracking of payments and improves the certainty and speed of cross-border transactions.

On-Demand Liquidity offers a solution for liquidity management by utilizing XRP as a bridge currency. It enables financial institutions to minimize the need for pre-funded accounts in different currencies, reducing liquidity costs and providing on-demand access to liquidity.

xVia allows businesses to easily send payments across various networks using RippleNet. It acts as a standardized interface, simplifying the integration process for organizations and providing seamless connectivity to Ripple's network.

How payments on Ripple Net work
Credit: Forkast News

Differentiating Ripple blockchain from other decentralized blockchains

Ripple's blockchain approach differs from traditional decentralized blockchains in several key aspects. While Bitcoin and Ethereum aim for complete decentralization and rely on mining for consensus, Ripple takes a more centralized approach for specific use cases.

Unlike public blockchains, where anyone can participate in the consensus process, Ripple's XRP Ledger employs a unique node list (UNL) composed of trusted validators chosen by Ripple. This design choice allows for faster consensus, scalability, and lower energy consumption compared to proof-of-work systems.

Additionally, Ripple's focus on the financial industry sets it apart from many other blockchain platforms. Ripple aims to collaborate with banks and financial institutions to improve their cross-border payment processes, rather than creating an alternative currency or platform for general-purpose applications.

While Ripple's centralized aspects have raised concerns about the level of decentralization and control, it also offers potential advantages in terms of transaction speed and efficiency. This trade-off between decentralization and efficiency is an ongoing topic of debate within the blockchain community.

Ripple's Vision

Ripple's goal of enabling fast and low-cost international payments

At the core of Ripple's vision is the ambition to revolutionize international payments by making them faster, more cost-effective, and accessible to all.

Ripple aims to overcome the existing challenges associated with traditional cross-border transactions, which are often slow, expensive, and reliant on a complex network of intermediaries.

By leveraging blockchain technology, Ripple seeks to enable real-time, low cost digital payments for banks and financial institutions the world over. The goal is to eliminate the need for multiple intermediaries and reduce the inherent delays and fees associated with traditional banking.

Overview of the Interledger Protocol (ILP) and its significance

Central to Ripple's vision is the Interledger Protocol (ILP). ILP is an open protocol suite designed to enable interoperability and seamless value transfer across different ledgers and payment networks. It acts as a connector between disparate payment systems, facilitating the frictionless movement of funds across borders.

ILP allows for the efficient routing of payments, ensuring that transactions can be settled instantly using the most optimal path available. This flexibility and interoperability provided by ILP contribute to Ripple's vision of creating a global network where value can flow freely, regardless of geographical boundaries or traditional banking limitations.

Ripple's focus on financial institutions and banks

Ripple has strategically positioned itself as a blockchain solution provider for financial institutions and banks, targeting their specific pain points in cross-border payments.

By partnering with these established players in the financial industry, Ripple aims to bring its technology to a vast network of users and achieve widespread adoption.

The focus on financial institutions and banks aligns with Ripple's understanding of the existing financial infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. By working within these established systems, Ripple aims to drive innovation and transform the financial industry from within, without attempting to replace it with an entirely new ecosystem.

Highlighting the benefits of Ripple's vision for the global financial system

Ripple's vision offers several potential benefits for the global financial system:

Improved efficiency: By leveraging blockchain technology and the speed of the XRP Ledger, Ripple envisions significantly faster transaction settlement times, reducing the time and costs associated with cross-border payments.

Cost reduction: Ripple aims to minimize fees associated with cross-border transactions by eliminating the need for multiple intermediaries and enabling direct transfers between financial institutions.

Enhanced accessibility: Ripple's technology aims to democratize financial access for the world, potentially benefiting individuals and businesses in underserved regions that currently face barriers to entry.

Increased transparency: By leveraging blockchain's immutable nature, Ripple offers greater transparency in transaction tracking and auditing, potentially reducing fraud and improving regulatory compliance.

Global financial inclusion: Ripple's vision of streamlining cross-border payments and enabling financial institutions to provide faster, low-cost services has the potential to empower individuals and businesses in developing countries, facilitating economic growth and inclusion.

Use Cases of Ripple Blockchain

Cross-border remittances

Ripple's blockchain technology offers significant advantages when it comes to cross-border remittances. By leveraging the speed and efficiency of the XRP Ledger, Ripple enables near-instantaneous settlement of transactions across borders. This eliminates the lengthy delays associated with traditional correspondent banking systems.

The benefits for individuals and businesses

For individuals sending money abroad, Ripple's technology offers faster and more cost-effective remittance options. The reduced settlement time means that recipients can access funds more quickly, providing financial relief and flexibility.

Additionally, lower transaction fees can result in more value being retained by individuals sending money, improving their overall financial well-being.

Businesses engaged in international commerce also benefit from Ripple's technology. It enables them to streamline their cross-border payment processes, reducing the time and costs associated with traditional banking systems.

This improved efficiency enhances cash flow management and enables businesses to operate more competitively in the global marketplace.

Liquidity management for financial institutions

Ripple's On-Demand Liquidity (ODL) service, formerly known as xRapid, addresses the challenge of liquidity management for financial institutions. ODL leverages the XRP cryptocurrency as a bridge currency, enabling near-instantaneous conversion of one currency to XRP and then to another currency.

How ODL enhances liquidity for banks

By utilizing ODL, banks and financial institutions can eliminate the need for pre-funded accounts in multiple currencies. Instead, they can rely on the XRP Ledger to facilitate on-demand liquidity for cross-border transactions.

This significantly reduces the costs associated with maintaining multiple currency accounts and minimizes the risk of holding excess funds.

ODL also enhances liquidity by reducing settlement times. The use of XRP as a bridge currency allows for faster conversion and settlement, resulting in improved liquidity management for financial institutions. This increased efficiency can help banks offer more competitive services and expand their global reach.

Real-time gross settlements

Ripple's blockchain technology enables real-time gross settlements, providing a range of benefits to financial institutions. With instant settlements, parties involved in a transaction can receive immediate confirmation and finality of payment. This reduces counterparty risk and improves the overall efficiency of the settlement process.

The impact on transaction speed and cost

The speed of Ripple's blockchain allows for near-instantaneous transaction settlements. This is in stark contrast to traditional systems that may take several days to complete cross-border transactions.

Real-time settlements significantly reduce transaction timeframes, enabling faster capital movement and improved cash flow for financial institutions.

Furthermore, real-time gross settlements can reduce costs associated with intermediary banks and correspondent banking networks.

By eliminating the need for multiple intermediaries and simplifying the settlement process, Ripple's technology reduces operational costs for financial institutions, leading to potential cost savings that can be passed on to customers.

Summing Up

Ripple has emerged as a significant player in the crypto ecosystem, with a unique vision, diverse use cases, and notable controversies. Ripple's focus on revolutionizing cross-border payments and enabling fast, low-cost transactions has the potential to transform the global financial system.

As we celebrate the Ripple verdict, let’s prepare for a longer battle with the SEC and other international regulatory bodies.

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