As blockchain companies have lost the spotlight this year to the burgeoning, hot world of crypto assets, two of the enterprise blockchain leaders, R3 and Ripple, are now embroiled in a dispute over the cryptocurrency XRP.
On Friday, in the Delaware Chancery Court, R3, a consortium of more than 80 financial institutions across the world, sued its partner Ripple, over an options contract to buy more than $1 billion worth of XRP. The same day, in a California state court in San Francisco, Ripple countersued.
R3 says in its lawsuit that in September 2016, the companies entered into an agreement, part of which gave R3 the option to purchase 5 billion XRP at an exercise price of $0.0085 between then and September 2019. After soaring more than 3,000% this year, XRP now trades at more than $0.20, making the options worth more than $1 billion.
San Francisco-based Ripple uses cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to make international wire transfers and other forms of cross-border exchange faster and cheaper. New York-based R3 uses similar technology, a distributed ledger which does not use cryptocurrency, as well as its consortium of financial institutions to make multiple banking functions more efficient.
The R3 suit claims that, in June 2017, Ripple’s current CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, emailed R3 CEO David Rutter to terminate the option contracts and asks the court to reinstate the rights granted in it.
In its suit, Ripple claims that R3 misled Ripple into entering into partnership agreements, signed in 2016, in which Ripple would benefit from R3’s banking partnerships, while R3 would gain not only from the options but also a share of 15% of the revenue Ripple received from any bank participating in their commercial partnership. It alleges that after signing, R3 instead focused its efforts on fundraising. (In May of this year, R3 announced it raised $107 million.) Ripple also alleges that, prior to signing, R3 touted the membership of partners like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, who left the consortium after the contract with Ripple was signed. It asks that the court invalidate its agreements and for R3 to pay damages from the breach of its agreement with Ripple in an amount to be determined at trial.
“R3 does not discuss the details of pending litigation. We are confident in our position and hope for a speedy resolution of this matter,” said R3 in a written statement.
A Ripple spokesperson wrote, “Our filing is straightforward — R3 misrepresented their ability and intent to deliver on their commitments. Given XRP’s ~4000% increase over the course of the year, R3 suddenly wants to tap into the value of XRP, though the facts are clear that they did not earn any option based on our agreement.”
R3 has raised $107 million from its consortium banks, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, HSBC, and Wells Fargo. Ripple has raised $94 million from Andreessen Horowitz, IDG Capital Partners, Santander Innoventures, SBI Investment, Seagate Technology and others.
The market capitalization or network value of XRP has skyrocketed this year from $236 million to $8 billion as of Friday. Ripple is believed to own about 60% of XRP in existence.