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四年前的一场演讲,造成了今日加密货币市场的乱象

四年前的一场演讲,造成了今日加密货币市场的乱象

STU ALDEROTY 2022-06-23
要想释放出加密货币的真正潜力,我们必须为其去除监管的枷锁。

2018年,美国证券交易委员会一位官员表示,由于比特币和以太币去中心化成程度很高,因而不应视作证券。而在美国证券交易委员会当前针对瑞波公司发起的诉讼中,该机构却认定瑞波币是证券。图片来源:GETTY IMAGES

如今,全球加密货币的市场规模已达数万亿美元之巨,此外,在打造更具包容性、开放性的金融系统方面,其底层技术或将发挥重大作用。

然而美国证券交易委员会却在故意搅浑“加密货币监管”这潭池水,这一点从该机构前官员威廉·欣曼四年前的一次演讲就能看出一二。要想释放出加密货币的真正潜力,我们必须为其去除监管的枷锁。

简述:欣曼曾担任美国证券交易委员会企业融资部门负责人。2014年,首枚以太币(ETH)重磅问世,风头一时无两。2018年,欣曼在雅虎市场峰会(Yahoo Markets Summit)演讲时称,以太币已从“有价证券”摇身变为非证券类资产。由于美国证券交易委员会当时尚未对数字资产的分类给出明确指引,此语可谓石破天惊,其相关言论也是广为传播。

对于自己的这一结论,欣曼辩称,得到广泛交易的比特币(BTC)具有“去中心化”的特点(因此不应视作“证券”),而随着时间推移,以太币的“去中心化”程度已经很高。这种论述颇为牵强,因为在定义“证券”的法规中根本找不到此种标准。在“豪威测试”(“Howey'' test,源于美国最高法院于1946年的一个判决,由三部分构成,用于判断某资产何时可以视作所谓“投资合约”证券)中也未见相关表述。豪威测试的核心问题是:与传统的股票投资相同,投资者是否在对“普通企业”进行被动投资,投资者是否可以通过该等投资获得分享企业利润的权利?由此可以看出,依据该准则,“去中心化”与否并非(某类资产是否可以视作证券的)判断标准。

依据《信息自由法》(FOIA),“吹哨人”组织——Empower Oversight申请查阅了相关信息,进而发现欣曼与以太坊之间存在惊人的利益冲突,2018年,在发表那场震动市场的演说之时,欣曼却并未提及自己当时仍在从老东家——辛普森-撒切尔(Simpson Thacher)律师事务所处领取数百万美元的报酬,也并未提及该律师事务所当时是(目前仍是)企业以太坊联盟(Enterprise Ethereum Alliance,EEA)的成员单位,而作为一家行业组织,企业以太坊联盟的宗旨就是推动以太币的使用。在此背景之下,欣曼为以太币“网开一面”的做法就显得更为值得玩味了。欣曼否认自己存在任何不当行为。但无论他在发表演讲时是否知道老东家与企业以太坊联盟的关联,美国证券交易委员会都应该对该等冲突情形做出评论,但截至目前仍未见其有相关动作。如果出现此类问题的是一家上市公司的首席执行官,美国证券交易委员会是否还会保持沉默?这一点颇为值得怀疑。

尽管有声明称这是欣曼的个人观点,“并不一定代表美国证券交易委员会的官方立场”,但市场却将欣曼的言论放在了心上。对于瑞波公司(Ripple)来说,欣曼的演讲作实了瑞波币(XRP,一种存在于开放、无需许可、去中心化的区块链账本上的加密货币)是一种商品(或虚拟货币)的结论。既然是一种商品(或虚拟货币),便自然不会再是证券。在其各项产品中,瑞波币只是瑞波分类账众多发展中的一个,瑞波公司以瑞波币为桥梁,让客户能够以更快的速度、更低廉的价格和更透明的方式实现跨境支付。在欣曼发表上述演讲后,瑞波公司与美国证券交易委员会的主要负责人进行过数次会面,他们相信,任何理性的人都会同意,瑞波币不是证券。

但在2020年12月,美国证券交易委员会却对瑞波公司、瑞波董事长及首席执行官发起了一起莫名其妙的诉讼,声称瑞波币是一种证券。美国证券交易委员会尚未说明理由,但无论其理由为何,都属于延伸解读,因为瑞波币并非投资者与瑞波公司之间的投资合约,而且已经在公开市场上自由交易了近10年时间。该起诉讼案似乎是美国证券交易委员会对美国所有加密货币攻击的延续。

在该诉讼中,美国证券交易委员会对于欣曼言论是仅代表个人观点还是代表其企业融资部门的意见一直含糊其辞,但似乎又一直在坚持相关言论并非其官方指引。美国证券交易委员会为何要任由这种不确定性发酵?这是因为,美国证券交易委员会的管辖权有其局限性,作为一个“证券委员会”,它只能监管“证券”。就像锤子希望所有东西都是钉子一样,美国证券交易委员会想要搅浑整潭池水,如此就可以辩称所有加密货币都属于证券范畴。美国证券交易委员会意图通过采取执法行动(或以可能采取执法行动为威胁)不当扩大自身管辖范围,进而威逼、打压、摧毁美国的加密货币创新实践。

在现行反欺诈与反洗钱法的约束之下,美国绝非“狂野西部”。然而,如果没有全面的监管框架,美国与其他负责任全球经济中心的差距将会越拉越大。美国国会两党近期的立法工作令人期待。

正如拜登总统最近发布的行政令——“以负责任的方式发展数字资产”中所写的那样,只要有明确、可行的指引,公平、公正地应用,美国就能确保其作为全球加密数字行业领导者的地位。

在欣曼发表演讲之后的四年里,其言论除了搅浑加密货币市场之外没有起到任何作用,美国仍然迫切需要明确的加密货币道路规划,既要支持创新,又要保护消费者和市场的完整性。

斯图·奥尔德罗蒂,瑞波法律总顾问。

译者:梁宇

审校:夏林

如今,全球加密货币的市场规模已达数万亿美元之巨,此外,在打造更具包容性、开放性的金融系统方面,其底层技术或将发挥重大作用。

然而美国证券交易委员会却在故意搅浑“加密货币监管”这潭池水,这一点从该机构前官员威廉·欣曼四年前的一次演讲就能看出一二。要想释放出加密货币的真正潜力,我们必须为其去除监管的枷锁。

简述:欣曼曾担任美国证券交易委员会企业融资部门负责人。2014年,首枚以太币(ETH)重磅问世,风头一时无两。2018年,欣曼在雅虎市场峰会(Yahoo Markets Summit)演讲时称,以太币已从“有价证券”摇身变为非证券类资产。由于美国证券交易委员会当时尚未对数字资产的分类给出明确指引,此语可谓石破天惊,其相关言论也是广为传播。

对于自己的这一结论,欣曼辩称,得到广泛交易的比特币(BTC)具有“去中心化”的特点(因此不应视作“证券”),而随着时间推移,以太币的“去中心化”程度已经很高。这种论述颇为牵强,因为在定义“证券”的法规中根本找不到此种标准。在“豪威测试”(“Howey'' test,源于美国最高法院于1946年的一个判决,由三部分构成,用于判断某资产何时可以视作所谓“投资合约”证券)中也未见相关表述。豪威测试的核心问题是:与传统的股票投资相同,投资者是否在对“普通企业”进行被动投资,投资者是否可以通过该等投资获得分享企业利润的权利?由此可以看出,依据该准则,“去中心化”与否并非(某类资产是否可以视作证券的)判断标准。

依据《信息自由法》(FOIA),“吹哨人”组织——Empower Oversight申请查阅了相关信息,进而发现欣曼与以太坊之间存在惊人的利益冲突,2018年,在发表那场震动市场的演说之时,欣曼却并未提及自己当时仍在从老东家——辛普森-撒切尔(Simpson Thacher)律师事务所处领取数百万美元的报酬,也并未提及该律师事务所当时是(目前仍是)企业以太坊联盟(Enterprise Ethereum Alliance,EEA)的成员单位,而作为一家行业组织,企业以太坊联盟的宗旨就是推动以太币的使用。在此背景之下,欣曼为以太币“网开一面”的做法就显得更为值得玩味了。欣曼否认自己存在任何不当行为。但无论他在发表演讲时是否知道老东家与企业以太坊联盟的关联,美国证券交易委员会都应该对该等冲突情形做出评论,但截至目前仍未见其有相关动作。如果出现此类问题的是一家上市公司的首席执行官,美国证券交易委员会是否还会保持沉默?这一点颇为值得怀疑。

尽管有声明称这是欣曼的个人观点,“并不一定代表美国证券交易委员会的官方立场”,但市场却将欣曼的言论放在了心上。对于瑞波公司(Ripple)来说,欣曼的演讲作实了瑞波币(XRP,一种存在于开放、无需许可、去中心化的区块链账本上的加密货币)是一种商品(或虚拟货币)的结论。既然是一种商品(或虚拟货币),便自然不会再是证券。在其各项产品中,瑞波币只是瑞波分类账众多发展中的一个,瑞波公司以瑞波币为桥梁,让客户能够以更快的速度、更低廉的价格和更透明的方式实现跨境支付。在欣曼发表上述演讲后,瑞波公司与美国证券交易委员会的主要负责人进行过数次会面,他们相信,任何理性的人都会同意,瑞波币不是证券。

但在2020年12月,美国证券交易委员会却对瑞波公司、瑞波董事长及首席执行官发起了一起莫名其妙的诉讼,声称瑞波币是一种证券。美国证券交易委员会尚未说明理由,但无论其理由为何,都属于延伸解读,因为瑞波币并非投资者与瑞波公司之间的投资合约,而且已经在公开市场上自由交易了近10年时间。该起诉讼案似乎是美国证券交易委员会对美国所有加密货币攻击的延续。

在该诉讼中,美国证券交易委员会对于欣曼言论是仅代表个人观点还是代表其企业融资部门的意见一直含糊其辞,但似乎又一直在坚持相关言论并非其官方指引。美国证券交易委员会为何要任由这种不确定性发酵?这是因为,美国证券交易委员会的管辖权有其局限性,作为一个“证券委员会”,它只能监管“证券”。就像锤子希望所有东西都是钉子一样,美国证券交易委员会想要搅浑整潭池水,如此就可以辩称所有加密货币都属于证券范畴。美国证券交易委员会意图通过采取执法行动(或以可能采取执法行动为威胁)不当扩大自身管辖范围,进而威逼、打压、摧毁美国的加密货币创新实践。

在现行反欺诈与反洗钱法的约束之下,美国绝非“狂野西部”。然而,如果没有全面的监管框架,美国与其他负责任全球经济中心的差距将会越拉越大。美国国会两党近期的立法工作令人期待。

正如拜登总统最近发布的行政令——“以负责任的方式发展数字资产”中所写的那样,只要有明确、可行的指引,公平、公正地应用,美国就能确保其作为全球加密数字行业领导者的地位。

在欣曼发表演讲之后的四年里,其言论除了搅浑加密货币市场之外没有起到任何作用,美国仍然迫切需要明确的加密货币道路规划,既要支持创新,又要保护消费者和市场的完整性。

斯图·奥尔德罗蒂,瑞波法律总顾问。

译者:梁宇

审校:夏林

Today, global crypto markets are measured in the trillions–and the underlying technology continues to hold great promise to build a more inclusive and open financial system.

Yet, here in the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has deliberately muddied the regulatory waters for crypto, as epitomized by a speech given by one of the agency's former officials, William Hinman, four years ago. To unlock crypto's true potential, we need to finally clean up this regulatory sludge.

A brief recap: Hinman served as the Director of Corporation Finance at the SEC. In his now-infamous 2018 speech at the Yahoo Markets Summit, he declared that Ether (ETH)–despite its well-publicized initial coin offering in 2014–had magically morphed from a security to a non-security. This was big news because at the time there was (and still is) no clear guidance from the SEC on how they classify digital assets.

Hinman justified his conclusion by saying that the widely traded Bitcoin (BTC) was “decentralized” (and thus, not a security) and that ETH had become “sufficiently decentralized” over time. This was odd because that standard is nowhere to be found in the statutes that define securities. It’s also not found in the three-part “Howey'' test, established in a 1946 Supreme Court case used to determine when something is a type of security known as an “investment contract.” At its core, the question posed by the Howey case is: Like a traditional share of stock, am I making a passive investment in a “common enterprise,” and does that give me the right to share in the enterprises’ profits derived solely from the efforts of those running that enterprise? “Decentralized” is not part of any test under the law.

Hinman's newly created exception for ETH is all the more peculiar given a stunning conflict of interest discovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by whistleblower group Empower Oversight. As he delivered that market-moving speech in 2018, Hinman did not mention that he was still receiving millions of dollars from his old law firm, Simpson Thacher, and that his firm was (and still is) a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), an industry organization whose objective is to drive the use of ETH. Hinman has denied any wrongdoing. But whether or not he knew of the EEA connection when he gave his speech, the SEC has not commented on what is–at the very least–the appearance of a conflict. It is doubtful the SEC would stay silent if a public company CEO were in a similar predicament.

Despite disclaimers that the speech was Hinman's personal opinion and “not necessarily that of the Commission,” the market took Hinman's speech to heart. For Ripple, Hinman’s speech affirmed the conclusion that XRP–a cryptocurrency that exists on an open, permissionless, decentralized blockchain ledger–was a commodity and/or a virtual currency. Certainly not a security. Ripple uses XRP in its products as a bridge to make cross-border payments faster, cheaper, and more transparent for its customers–and is one of many developing on the XRP ledger. Following Hinman’s speech, Ripple met several times with key officials at the SEC, believing that rational minds would all agree on XRP’s status as something other than a security.

But in December 2020, the SEC filed a misguided lawsuit against Ripple, its chairman, and CEO, alleging that XRP was a security. The SEC hasn’t really articulated its theory, but whatever it is, it's a stretch, since XRP has been freely traded in the open market for nearly a decade and isn’t a contract for an investment with Ripple. What the suit appears to be is a continuation of the SEC’s assault on all crypto in the U.S.

In the litigation, the SEC has vacillated whether Hinman’s speech was his personal views or a signal from the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance, but seems to be sticking to its story that it was not guidance from the commission itself. Why is the SEC fostering such uncertainty? The SEC’s jurisdiction has limits: A “securities commission” can only regulate “securities.” Like a hammer wanting everything to be a nail, the SEC is keeping everything murky so it can argue every crypto is a security. By bringing enforcement actions–or threats of potential enforcement–the SEC intends to bully, bulldoze, and bankrupt crypto innovation in the U.S., all in the name of impermissibly expanding its own jurisdictional limits.

The U.S. is not the “Wild West” due to existing anti-fraud and anti-money laundering laws. Yet without a comprehensive regulatory framework, the U.S. will continue to fall further behind other responsible global economic centers. Recent bipartisan legislative efforts in Congress are promising.

As recognized in President Biden's recent Executive Order on Responsible Development of Digital Assets, with clear and practical guidance, applied evenly and fairly, the U.S. can secure its position as a global leader in the crypto industry.

In the four years since Hinman’s speech that did nothing but muddy the crypto waters, the U.S. still desperately needs clear rules of the road that embrace innovation while protecting consumers and the integrity of markets.

Stu Alderoty is Ripple's general counsel.

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