Crypto-currency markets have been battered this year, plummeting more than 70% in only eight months and the only things on the rise in the industry at the moment are crypto-related lawsuits.
According to a report by legal analytics platform Lex Machina, 2018 saw a significant rise in litigation regarding securities and digital currencies. The 2018 Securities Litigation Report highlights recent trends and insights from its database of more than 15,000 securities cases litigated in federal district courts since 2009.
The report takes statistics from the first two quarters of this year and compares them to 2017. Last year there were only 15 cases that mentioned Bitcoin or blockchain, whereas the first half of 2018 saw that figure jump to 45. Key findings revealed that during the 18 months following the nomination of Jay Clayton as Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, securities case filings were at an all-time high – 2,622 cases, representing a 60% increase over the preceding 18 months.
The National Law Journal stated: “Securities lawsuits filed over crypto-currencies or Bitcoin have tripled so far this year as SEC chairman Jay Clayton announced a crackdown on that industry,” before adding: “The SEC, which has vowed to scrutinize crypto-currencies and initial coin offerings, was responsible for 30% of the cases filed in 2018, that’s the second-most popular filer of such cases, topped only by the law firm Levi & Korsinsky.”
Karl Harris, CEO of Lex Machina, added: “According to our 2018 Securities Litigation Report, many unexpected new trends have emerged. The significant increase in case filings coupled with the higher rate of cases tossed out at the pleading stage should compel securities lawyers on both sides to leverage the data to inform and create new litigation strategies. Our Securities Litigation Report enables lawyers to respond quickly and confidently to these new developments.”
A couple of the lawsuits have made mainstream news including the Ripple Labs versus R3 Consortium case. The legal battle started in September last year when the partnership between blockchain startup R3 and Ripple broke down, with each side accusing the other of violating the arrangement. The multi-billion dollar affair involving 5 billion XRP tokens was recently concluded out of court when both sides came to agreement.
As the industry matures and crypto-currencies become a widely adopted daily form of payment or store of wealth, litigation involving them is likely to increase at a greater rate.