The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continues to grapple with discovery issues as it presses ahead with its lawsuit against Ripple Labs and its executives.
According to a motion filed with the New York Southern District Court on August 30, 2021, the SEC is seeking access to recordings of meetings that Ripple was silent about. The SEC’s motion, seen by FX News Group, represents a request for a conference with the Court so that the SEC would push for an order compelling Ripple to produce relevant video and audio-taped recordings of a number of meetings among current and former Ripple executives and key employees.
At Ripple’s request, the SEC identified specific categories of meetings from Ripple’s document production to help it narrow the search parameters for the recordings, including “all–hands” meetings, town hall meetings and fireside chats.
Examples of relevant all-hands meetings include XRP markets all-hands meetings, quarterly and weekly engineering all-hands meetings, and a 2019 GTM approach weekly all-hands meeting. Some of the relevant town hall meetings include a December 26, 2018, discussion of company outlook amid risk of a drop in XRP price; and a December 22, 2020, meeting to discuss the SEC investigation.
Let’s recall that the SEC’s Complaint alleges that, in an unregistered offering of securities, Christian A. Larsen and Bradley Garlinghouse obtained at least $600 million of investor funds from selling a digital asset security called XRP, while orchestrating Ripple’s sales of another $1.4 billion of XRP.
The SEC asserts two claims against the individual defendants: violations of Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77e, as to their unregistered offers and sales of XRP, and aiding and abetting Ripple’s violations, which requires proof of knowing or reckless conduct (scienter).
Despite the SEC’s request for relevant recordings in its very first document requests to Ripple in January 2021, Ripple never informed the SEC that Ripple routinely recorded staff meetings until a key former Ripple employee testified to that in her deposition earlier this month. Upon learning of the recordings’ existence, the SEC has tried to obtain relevant recordings without the Court’s involvement, but those efforts have proven unsuccessful and the parties are now at an impasse.
This impasse over the SEC’s request for Ripple’s internal recordings is emblematic of Ripple’s failure to comply with its discovery obligations, the Commission says. Earlier this month, the SEC filed a motion to compel the production of relevant communications between Ripple employees on the messaging app Slack, after Ripple reneged on its original agreement to search for and produce relevant Slack messages to and from 33 custodians.