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Ripple CFO jumps ship months before SEC trial

Ripple’s chief financial officer, Kristina Campbell, has exited the company just six months before Ripple’s fateful trial against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to Campbell’s LinkedIn.

Campbell announced in a LinkedIn post that she was leaving Ripple for healthcare startup Maven Clinic. The post contained a scant reference to her former employer: “A big thank you to everyone at Ripple who made the last few years so memorable.”

Memorable is a good word: her tenure began shortly after the SEC took action against Ripple and its co-founders for illegally offering securities in connection with the XRP token. In the time since, Ripple has been drawing as much attention to its plight as possible, with its executives dragging every legal side issue and procedural filing into the public eye in order to rally support against the SEC.

The timing of Campbell’s exit is notable for two reasons. One, Ripple will be put on trial in April 2024 in the SEC’s long-standing enforcement case against it. Though Ripple executives have taken care to portray their defense so far as a series of ‘major’ victories for Ripple and other illegal securities offerors, the reality has been more nuanced, and the court has already declared that Ripple’s institutional sales of XRP amounted to illegal securities.

Further, recent court decisions have cast doubt on Ripple’s defenses, including the now-dead-in-the-water ‘fair notice’ defense and the idea that tokens sold on exchanges can never be securities (it would appear that they can).

The other related reason is that Campbell’s departure is the latest in what has become an exodus of senior executives within the digital asset industry as regulators and lawmakers clamp down on non-compliant actors in the space.

Ripple itself lost its director of engineering back in October, who took care to tell his followers that wherever he went next, it would not be a blockchain project. Additionally, an attorney representing Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, who is a co-defendant in the SEC action, filed to withdraw from the case in December of last year.

Even looking at the period before the SEC formally brought its action, when rumors of impending regulatory scrutiny were rife, reveals an intense staff turnover at Ripple. The regulatory concerns at the time were such that Ripple’s Head of Ripple Markets, Miguel Vais, reportedly changed his title to Head of XRP Markets, apparently in an effort to separate the XRP token from Ripple’s core operations, at least on paper.

Vais’ LinkedIn profile shows he left the company in April 2020, months before the SEC announced its charges against Ripple and its founders. In 2019, Ripple fired its Chief Marketing Strategist Cory Johnson—who the company notably described as the person “representing the company to investors, press and regulators.” Ripple said it was eliminating that role due to “changes in market conditions.”

We also know from experience that paying attention to the comings and goings of senior staff at beleaguered digital asset companies can offer a useful early indicator.

For instance, Binance has been hemorrhaging senior staff since 2021, when a series of reports revealed that Binance and its founder, Changpeng Zhao, were intentionally evading its compliance responsibilities in order to focus on customer growth. Since then, the SEC filed charges against Binance and its founder for many of the things that Ripple is accused of—and the executive departures haven’t slowed down.

The person at the top of this list—Catherine Coley, who was at one point the CEO of Binance’s U.S. companies—came to Binance by way of Ripple, where she was Head of XRP Institutional Liquidity. She left Ripple in 2019 and apparently failed to find a comfortable landing spot at Binance.

So, Ripple’s CFO heading for the exit mere months before Ripple’s trial—while the rest of the Ripple team are going to great lengths to assure the public that it will amount to a complete vindication for Ripple—is worth taking note of.

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