Ripple’s legal bills hit $200 million as crypto industry looks to Asia

Ripple won a landmark decision against the Securities and Exchange Commission this summer when a federal judge ruled its sale of XRP tokens did not, in most cases, amount to a securities offering. The ruling was a major victory for both the company and the crypto industry—but it did not come cheap.

I caught up with Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse in New York on Wednesday, and he told me the company’s legal bills—which he had pegged at over $100 million in July of 2022—have now grown to around double that. The eye-popping figure reflects both the high cost of litigation and the fact the crypto world is in a life-and-death struggle with the SEC, whose chairman has adopted a relentlessly hostile posture towards the industry.

“You have to stand up to a bully,” Garlinghouse said on stage at the Mainnet conference prior to our conversation. “[Chair Gary Gensler] is pursuing power, he’s pursuing politics. Not sound policy.”

This pugnacious attitude has led the rest of the crypto industry, which once scorned Ripple for being overly corporate, to embrace the company as a champion in the fight against a common enemy. How long this fight will go on—and the size of Ripple’s final legal bill—is anyone’s guess as the SEC seeks to appeal the company’s recent victory, and as Gensler doubles down on a harsh enforcement strategy.

In the meantime, Ripple says it views Asia as a more favorable environment for the company’s future growth plans. That’s been a common refrain in New York crypto circles this week as conference attendees speak wistfully of places like Singapore and Korea where blockchain events have drawn large throngs and received support from elected officials.

While U.S. companies like Coinbase and Ripple have suggested they may relocate their operations altogether to escape the hostile regulatory environment, this is probably just posturing. The size of the U.S. market and New York’s role as a global financial capital—along with their executives’ personal ties to the country—means it’s not realistic for the companies to up and quit these shores. But their frustration with the lack of a regulatory framework is understandable. Just imagine if Ripple could have spent $200 million on product development instead of lawyers.

Jeff John Roberts