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KuCoin Lawsuit: New York Attorney General Claims Ether is a Security

The New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, has filed a lawsuit against KuCoin, alleging that the cryptocurrency exchange is operating as an unregistered broker or dealer of securities and commodities.

According to a recently issued press release, the lawsuit is part of an ongoing initiative to combat unregistered cryptocurrency platforms.

Allegations of Unregistered Cryptocurrency Trading and Securities Violations Against KuCoin

On Thursday, the Attorney General of New York State, Letitia James, brought a lawsuit against KuCoin, a cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in Seychelles. The lawsuit alleges that KuCoin violated securities regulations by offering tokens, including Ether, that meet the definition of securities, without registering with the Attorney General’s office.

According to the lawsuit, KuCoin engaged in fraudulent activities such as false advertising and deceptive practices, while failing to provide adequate protections for customers’ investments. The Attorney General’s office is seeking injunctive relief, penalties, and restitution for affected investors.

This lawsuit is part of a broader campaign by the New York State Attorney General’s office to clamp down on unregistered cryptocurrency platforms that operate within the state. This is not the first time that the office has initiated legal proceedings against a cryptocurrency exchange, as it previously filed a lawsuit in 2019 against Bitfinex, alleging that the exchange concealed the loss of $850 million in customer funds.

This lawsuit marks the first instance where a regulator has asserted in court that Ether constitutes a security. While Gary Gensler, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has suggested that the agency might categorize Ether as a security, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the SEC’s sister regulatory agency, has consistently maintained that both Bitcoin and Ether are commodities.

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The case raises important questions about how cryptocurrencies are classified and regulated, as the industry continues to evolve and mature. The outcome of this lawsuit may have significant implications for the broader cryptocurrency market and its participants.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit asserts that Ether qualifies as a security under the Martin Act, a New York anti-fraud law that is over a century old. The Martin Act gives the Attorney General the authority to investigate securities fraud and take both civil and criminal action against offenders. According to the lawsuit, the value of Ether is reliant on the efforts of others, including Vitalik Buterin, its co-founder, thereby meeting the criteria of a security.

Implications of the KuCoin Lawsuit for Cryptocurrency Regulations and Investor Protections


This argument raises significant questions about the regulatory status of Ether and other cryptocurrencies, as it suggests that they may be subject to securities laws. It remains to be seen how the court will interpret the Martin Act and apply it to the unique features of cryptocurrencies.

Additionally, the Attorney General, Letitia James, alleged that KuCoin offers unregistered securities through its lending and staking service, KuCoin Earn. Her office was able to establish a KuCoin account using a computer with a New York-based IP address, which enabled them to purchase and sell digital tokens on the platform, incurring fees charged by KuCoin. They were also able to deposit tokens into KuCoin Earn, again incurring a fee.

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These claims are significant because they imply that KuCoin has not complied with securities regulations, and therefore, its customers may have been exposed to significant risks. If proven true, this could result in significant penalties for the exchange and its executives. The case may set a precedent for other states and jurisdictions to scrutinize cryptocurrency platforms more closely and take legal action against those that do not comply with securities laws.

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