Regulatory Overreach? SEC Lawyers Resign Over DEBT Box Debacle

Two SEC lawyers resign amid legal challenges following a judge’s sanctions over misrepresentations in a crypto lawsuit.

Guy running away from being scared of ''jack in the box'' on digital land.
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  • A federal judge rebuked the SEC for gross misconduct in a crypto case.
  • Two lead SEC attorneys resigned amid legal and professional fallout.
  • The case highlights significant concerns over regulatory oversight in crypto.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a pivotal player in financial regulation, has recently faced significant scrutiny. A recent case cast a shadow over the SEC’s current regulatory and enforcement approach in crypto. 

Most recently, two of its lawyers resigned following a judge’s harsh criticism over their handling of the DEBT Box lawsuit, where the Judge sanctioned the SEC over misconduct. 

The SEC’s Oversight in Crypto Regulation

In a startling development within the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), two prominent lawyers, Michael Welsh and Joseph Watkins, resigned under severe legal scrutiny and impending dismissal threats. 


Their resignations came as a direct consequence of a federal judge’s damning verdict on the SEC’s handling of a crypto case involving DEBT Box. The SEC accused the crypto platform of defrauding investors of at least $49 million and imposed a controversial asset freeze. 

However, in March, Judge Robert Shelby of Salt Lake City challenged the asset freeze, describing it as a “gross abuse” of power. He pointed out multiple flaws in the SEC’s legal conduct, including false statements and insufficient evidence. 

Notably, the judge pointed out Welsh’s incorrect assertions about DEBT Box’s financial activities. He alleged that the company was illicitly transferring assets overseas, a claim that was later proven false. This error not only questioned the credibility of the SEC’s actions but also led Judge Shelby to reverse the asset freeze and formally sanction the SEC for its misleading conduct.

Implications of the DEBT Box Case for the SEC

In response to the judge’s criticisms and the internal fallout, Gurbir Grewal, the SEC’s enforcement chief, issued a public apology. He acknowledged the mismanagement within his department and implemented immediate reforms. This included the reassignment of the case to new attorneys and the introduction of additional training for enforcement staff.


This case has severe implications for the SEC’s regulatory enforcement in crypto. Under the leadership of Gary Gensler, the agency emphasized a strict regulatory approach, bringing a high number of enforcement actions. The agency went after crypto exchanges, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), and, for the first time, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)​ 

The SEC has been particularly vigilant in scrutinizing trading platforms that offer crypto lending and staking services. However, this strict approach had its critics, both in the crypto industry and among legislators. Some critics include SEC insiders, notably Commissioner Hester Peirce, an advocate of crypto innovation.

On the Flipside

  • SEC’s critics point out aggressive regulations stifle innovation and drive crypto businesses offshore. 
  • The U.S. currently lacks comprehensive regulations that handle cryptocurrencies specifically. However, several legislative initiatives aim to change this, including the recent proposal for stablecoin regulation

Why This Matters

The SEC’s intense scrutiny poses significant challenges for new and existing crypto firms, many of which have withdrawn their crypto operations from the U.S. market. Any change in the SEC’s approach will have a profound impact on the crypto market. 

Read more about Hester Peirce’s criticism of the SEC: 
Hester Peirce Unmasks SEC’s Secret Garden of Unaccountability

Read more about Solana’s meme coin mania: 
Solana Memecoin Investors Lost Millions on Abandoned Projects

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.

David Marsanic

David Marsanic is a journalist for DailyCoin who covers the intersection of crypto, traditional finance, and government. He focuses on institutionalized crypto entities like major cryptocurrency exchanges and Solana, breaking down complex topics into easy-to-understand writing. David's prior experience as a business journalist at various crypto and traditional news sites has enabled him to maintain a critical approach to news while adhering to high journalistic integrity standards.