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SEC enforcer behind $1.3 billion Ripple lawsuit stepping down

Marc Berger Mug Shot


Marc P. Berger, who was named deputy director of the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in August 2020, is leaving the agency before the end of the month, according to an SEC press release. He was appointed acting director of the division after Stephanie Avakian departed from the SEC in December.

Though Berger’s time in the top position was short, it bears at least one major highlight: the SEC’s $1.3 billion lawsuit against Ripple Labs, CEO Brad Garlinghouse, and Executive Chairman Chris Larsen.

The lawsuit, which was unveiled at the tail end of Avakian’s tenure, alleges Ripple did not register the sale of XRP, the third-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. The SEC views XRP as a security — a tradable investment contract that raises funds for a business or organization.

Ripple was invented by Ripple founders Larsen, Arthur Britto, and Jed McCaleb, as well as current Ripple CTO David Schwartz. It aims to be a cryptocurrency enabling banks to more efficiently transfer money. But according to the SEC, Larsen and Garlinghouse sold XRP given to them by the company in order to get rich. The SEC also alleges that Ripple paid companies to use XRP and, therefore, prop up the price.

The lawsuit, filed in New York federal court on Dec. 22, sent XRP’s price into a downward spiral. On Dec. 21, the asset traded for as high as US$0.55. It’s now at $0.29 and has been dropped by several exchanges, such as Coinbase.

Berger can also take partial credit for the SEC’s enforcement action against Telegram, which compelled the messaging software company to return US$1.2 billion to those who invested in its cryptocurrency offering. “Grams” digital tokens never got off the ground.

In addition to ICO-related enforcement actions, Berger also played a role in enforcing securities laws and protecting investors, including by taking actions against prominent firms Robinhood Financial LLC, Deutsche Bank AG and Luckin Coffee.

Things are in flux at the SEC as the federal government transitions from a Trump presidency to a Biden administration on Jan. 20. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Gary Gensler to fill the role of SEC chair. Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton stepped down in December. 

The SEC has not yet named a new enforcement director.



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