Coinbase Case Judge Sides With SEC, but How Big Is the Blow?

A judge’s ruling in an insider trading case involving a former Coinbase employee sparks concern among crypto investors.

Rat coming out of Coinbase to say something.
Created by Kornelija Poderskytė from DailyCoin
  • A judge in the insider trading case against a former Coinbase employee has sided with the SEC on crypto secondary market sales.
  • The ruling has sparked significant concern among crypto investors.
  • Despite these concerns, experts contend that the ruling is less impactful than some fear.

Amid the SEC’s ongoing crypto enforcement campaign that has targeted leading exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken, a key contention has risen regarding whether secondary sales of crypto assets can constitute securities transactions. 

As the debate rages, attention has shifted to a 2022 case involving insider trading at Coinbase that saw a former product manager at the firm, Ishan Wani, his brother Nikhil Wahi, and friend Sameer Ramani rake in over $1.5 million. The SEC claims jurisdiction in the case by alleging that tokens traded by defendants on Coinbase are unregistered securities.

Following settlements with Ishan Wani and his brother in May 2023, the judge has sided with the SEC in a default ruling against Ramani, who fled prosecution in what has been viewed by some as a blow to crypto. But how impactful is the ruling?

Judge Rules That Secondary Market Sales Are Securities Transactions

On March 1, U.S. District Judge Tana Lin for the Western District of Washington ruled that trading certain crypto assets in secondary markets like Coinbase constituted securities transactions.


“Each issuer continued to make such representation regarding the profitability of their tokens even as the tokens were traded on secondary markets. Thus, under Howey, all of the crypto assets that Ramani purchased and traded were investment contracts,” Judge Lin wrote.

The ruling has unsurprisingly sparked significant uncertainty among crypto proponents, who worry about the broader industry implications amid fears that it could bolster the SEC’s crypto enforcement campaign. SEC Chair Gary Gensler has maintained that most crypto assets constitute unregistered securities.

Despite these fears, experts contend that the ruling is less impactful than some reports suggest.

“Not Very Strong Law”

In an X post on Monday, March 4, Hodl Law Senior Managing Partner Fred Rispoli asserted that the ruling was “not very strong law” as there was no opposition.


“Judge just copied SEC’s motion for her order as there was no opposition. Not very strong law and probably won’t even be a reported decision,” Rispoli wrote.

Rispoli’s view was shared by former SEC Regional Director Marc Fagel. According to Fagel, “as a default judgment, it’s arguably of limited value as precedent.”

These sentiments suggest that the recent ruling is unlikely to have an impact beyond the insider trading case.

On the Flipside

  • Several Bitcoin maximalists have celebrated the recent ruling in favor of the SEC, using it to support arguments for Bitcoin’s superiority.

Why This Matters

The ruling in favor of the SEC sparked concern among crypto investors, marking a potential point for the agency in the secondary market sales debate.

Read this for more about the Coinbase insider trading case:

Coinbase Exec Convicted in Crypto’s First U.S. Insider Trading Case

Learn about Binance’s escalating troubles in Nigeria:

Binance Stares Down $10B Fine in Escalating Nigeria Crackdown

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Okoya David

David Okoya is a crypto news reporter at DailyCoin based in Nigeria. He covers various topics related to the cryptocurrency industry, including exchanges, regulations, and price movements, and strives to bring fresh angles to breaking news. With experience as a freelance crypto news writer, David upholds the highest journalistic standards, telling complete stories and answering lingering questions whenever possible.