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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Crypto company Ripple announced on Monday that it's expecting a lawsuit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over its sale of XRP, the cryptocurrency it created.

Why it matters: If filed, it would be the highest-profile lawsuit of its kind. The SEC has sued a number of cryptocurrency companies in recent years over what it has deemed illegal sales of securities.

The big picture: Whether digital tokens — like XRP — are securities has been the central question regulators and the industry have been wrestling with in recent years.

  • SEC officials have declared Bitcoin and Ether to be currencies, as they are decentralized in their management, but have left the door open for others to qualify as securities, especially at the time of their issuance.
  • Yes, but: XRP is in a different situation. While it's widely traded, its originator, Ripple, is still very much involved and owns a significant portion of the currency (though it's held in reserves to be sold over time, which the company says it doesn't have control over).
  • XRP is currently the third most valuable cryptocurrency, with a market cap of about $22 billion.

What they're saying: "Make no mistake, we are ready to fight and win - this battle is just beginning," Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tweeted with regards to the announcement, which was first reported by Fortune.

The bottom line: The potential lawsuit could have a significant impact in shaping the regulatory environment for digital tokens.

Go deeper

Coinbase settles on direct listing to go public

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Coinbase, the cryptocurrency trading company, said Thursday that its public debut will be a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO.

Why it matters: Coinbase's public listing has been hotly anticipated as a potential tipping point for the cryptocurrency industry to go mainstream. The direct listing route — which allows existing shareholders to sell their stock into the market while the company doesn't raise new funds — has been slowly gaining more traction with Palantir and Asana as the latest to go that direction.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.