The lawsuits currently plaguing the crypto industry in the US are about much more than money laundering, fraud or consumer protection. Also in the courtroom is the question of the essence of crypto – and the adaptability of the American legal system.

What a week. In the USA, one crypto process is currently chasing another. Against Samourai, Tornado Cash, Roger Ver, Consensys, to name just the ones we’ve written about. Legal battles over crypto are piling up in the courts, and unlike previous waves, this time is different.

Previously it was about topics such as money laundering, darknet crime, pyramid schemes or ICO tokens. It was about what to do with cryptocurrencies and the authorities took action against their misuse. Crypto itself remained unquestioningly legal.

The trials surrounding Samourai and Tornado Cash, on the other hand, are not just about whether the developers supported money laundering. Instead, they are also accused of being a “money transmitter” without fiduciary control over the users’ keys. Similar with the upcoming lawsuit regarding the Metamask wallet: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Metamask is a broker – even though this wallet also has no access to its users’ keys.

The big question in the courtroom with each of these lawsuits is this: Do wallets need to be regulated like other financial services providers? Do they have to determine the identity of users, report suspicious transactions, and possibly freeze funds?

In other words: Can there be software that allows users to store their electronic assets themselves without any further conditions? According to the SEC and the plaintiffs against Samourai and Tornado Cash, the answer is “no,” or, at best, a very qualified “it depends.”

This is the essence of crypto. The permission-free and autonomous disposal of electronic values. It is currently being debated in the USA. The battle will be fought legally, not politically, and it will take place in the fair arena of the rule of law. Cryptocurrency companies can hire any legal counsel their ample reserves can buy, and the ruling in the SEC’s case against Ripple shows that courts can make impartial judgments.

There are certainly institutions and forces in the USA that would like to ban cryptocurrencies outright. It’s also quite possible that some of them are behind the current lawsuits. But the core issue is whether the American legal system is able to adapt to the new technological realities – or whether it will try to enforce claims that have become invalid at all costs.


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