SEC enforcement attorney joins law firm defending crypto companies

Ladan Stewart, an attorney who represented the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in its enforcement case against Ripple, has joined a law firm that is often at the defense table for crypto companies.

In a Feb. 21 announcement, law firm White & Case said Stewart had joined its practice as a partner in New York, citing her experience in crypto enforcement cases. She had helped litigate the commission’s case against Ripple, which was filed in December 2020, withdrawing as an attorney of record in January after “leaving the SEC’s employ.”

“Ladan’s most recent role as the head of the SEC’s specialized crypto and cyber litigation unit is a significant asset given the heightened regulatory scrutiny of the crypto industry in recent years,” said Joel Cohen, White & Case’s head of global white collar practice. “Ladan is extraordinarily well positioned to counsel crypto industry players and defend them against regulatory or private actions.”

The law firm has represented many crypto firms in some significant cases, including those involving the SEC. A White & Case partner represented provisional liquidators overseeing FTX’s operations in the Bahamas following the exchange’s collapse in November 2022, and attorneys have appeared for Celsius’ official creditor committee.

White & Case partner Nicole Erb suggested that Stewart may be appearing on behalf of crypto firms, using “her vast experience at the forefront of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement” to advise clients under scrutiny by the commission. The possibility she may appear opposite former SEC colleagues in a crypto enforcement case highlighted concerns from lawmakers about former government officials moving into the digital asset industry.

“I think it’s really important for crypto companies, and any companies that are interested in getting involved in crypto and fintech — whether they be issuers or tech companies or financial institutions — to be able to be advised by people who know how regulators like the SEC think about issues,” Stewart told Cointelegraph. “I actually think it’s a really positive thing when people spend time in government and then go back to the private sector because they can really share certain expertise and skill set that the private sector otherwise wouldn’t be privy to.”

Related: Prosecutors call for hearing over lawyers representing Sam Bankman-Fried and Alex Mashinsky

Stewart told Cointelegraph that while there was the potential for conflicts of interest, she expected to manage them. While at the SEC, Stewart handled litigation against Ripple, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and Coinbase. She had served as counsel at the commission’s enforcement division for roughly eight years before joining White & Case. 

The SEC has ongoing lawsuits against Binance, Kraken, Ripple, Coinbase and other firms involved in the digital asset space. Many have criticized the commission for taking a “regulation by enforcement” approach to crypto compared to traditional financial institutions.

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