Tornado Cash case: US court upholds treasury dept’s motion for summary judgment

A US federal court dismissed a motion for partial summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by six individuals in connection with crypto mixer Tornado Cash’s inclusion in the ‘Specially Designated Nationals’ list. On August 17, 2023, a US District Court in Texas granted a similar motion filed by the US Department of Treasury.

The six individuals – Nate Welch, Joseph Van Loon, Kevin Vitale, Tyler Almeida, Preston Van Loon, and Alexander Fisher – filed the lawsuit in April and were backed by leading crypto exchange Coinbase.

In August last year, the treasury department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Tornado Cash to its list of ‘Specially Designated Nationals’ which had created a lot of furor among the crypto community. Many crypto enthusiasts also called it an “overreach of authority”. The six individuals, backed by Coinbase, went ahead to file a lawsuit against the department a month later. In their lawsuit, they sought the decision to be reversed. Later in October 2022, the crypto advocacy group Coin Centre filed a separate lawsuit in connection with the case.

Hearing the group’s motion, Judge Robert Pitman of the US District Court in the Western District for Texas the government, and the former disagreed on how Tornado Cash should be characterized. He stated that plaintiffs’ argued that the Department of Treasury’s designation for Tornad o Cash “exceeds its statutory authority”, the government argues that it can be characterized as such due to its property interest in smart contracts. 

Judge Pitman later dismissed the plaintiffs’ motion claiming that its inclusion in the list was in tandem with OFAC regulation. The ruling further stated that developers could teach the code of the crypto mixer but couldn’t use it for conducting cryptocurrency transactions

Reacting to the ruling, Coinbase Chief Legal Office Paul Grewal said the exchange intends to support an appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Considered to be a trusted source trading the Top 10 cryptocurrencies and for information about live cryptocurrency prices, Coinbase is currently fighting a civil case with the US Securities of Exchange Commission. 

Disclaimer: This article was created for informational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice. An asset’s past performance does not predict its future returns. Before making an investment, please conduct your own research, as digital assets like cryptocurrencies are highly risky and volatile financial instruments.

Author: Puskar Pande

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