Judge rejects motion to dismiss SEC case against Terraform Labs.

Judge rejects motion to dismiss SEC case against Terraform Labs.

The Blockchain Industry Faces Legal Challenges: Terraform Labs Denied Motion to Dismiss SEC Lawsuit

Source: Yanik Chauvin/Adobe Source: Yanik Chauvin/Adobe


The blockchain industry has been hit with a significant legal development as US District Judge Jed Rakoff has rejected Terraform Labs’ motion to dismiss a securities fraud lawsuit filed against it by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The ruling has profound implications for the future of the industry and raises important questions about the classification of digital assets and the authority of regulatory bodies.

Terraform Labs Arguments

Terraform Labs, the defendant in this case, argued that the SEC lacked jurisdiction and claimed that its TerraUSD stablecoin did not qualify as an unregistered security. However, the judge dismissed these arguments, stating that the case could proceed. The ruling explicitly distinguished this case from a recent court decision in favor of Ripple Labs, demonstrating that each case must be evaluated independently.

Ripple vs. Terraform Labs

In the Ripple case, the court ruled that Ripple’s XRP token sales did not violate securities laws because buyers purchased them on secondary markets. However, Judge Rakoff emphasized that the legal Howey test, which determines whether crypto assets are securities, does not make a distinction between purchasers. He argued that both cases should be evaluated under the same criteria, regardless of how the assets were acquired.

“Howey makes no such distinction between purchasers, and it makes good sense that it did not. The court declines to draw a distinction between these coins based on their manner of sale.” – Judge Rakoff

Terraform Labs’ Bold Pitch

Judge Rakoff examined Terraform Labs’ marketing and found that they made a bold and broad pitch. The defendants embarked on a public campaign to encourage retail and institutional investors to buy their crypto assets. The judge stated that secondary-market purchasers had every reason to believe that the defendants would generate profits using their capital contributions. This finding strengthens the SEC’s case and highlights the defendants’ alleged misconduct.

The Collapse of TerraUSD

The collapse of TerraUSD, which lost its dollar peg and experienced a significant decline in value last year, supports the SEC’s argument that the token should have been registered as a security. The judge considered it plausible that investors were misled about the utility and value of the token. This case underscores the need for regulatory oversight to protect investors and prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

Authority to Regulate Stablecoins

Terraform Labs also argued that the SEC lacked the authority to regulate stablecoins without explicit Congressional authorization. However, Judge Rakoff dismissed this claim. He invoked the “Major Questions Doctrine,” which limits agency overreach into major political issues, and asserted that cryptocurrency qualifies as a significant enough issue to warrant regulatory oversight. He stated that the crypto asset market is not substantial enough to warrant such limitations on regulatory authority.

“The cryptocurrency industry falls far short of being a ‘portion of the American economy’ bearing ‘vast economic and political significance.’” – Judge Rakoff

Fraud Charges and Unregistered Securities

In addition to addressing jurisdiction and regulatory authority, the judge also analyzed the fraud charges against Terraform Labs. He concluded that the SEC presented enough evidence to suggest that the defendants misled investors about the utility of their crypto assets, particularly regarding allegations of fabricated adoption data. The judge ruled that the SEC sufficiently alleged that Terraform unlawfully offered and sold unregistered securities.


Judge Rakoff’s decision represents a significant victory for the SEC and demonstrates its determination to enforce regulations against crypto companies involved in unlawful token sales. This ruling raises important questions about the classification of digital assets and the authority of regulatory bodies in the blockchain industry. Moving forward, this case will serve as a precedent for future legal actions and will undoubtedly shape the regulatory landscape of the blockchain industry.

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