Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler said on Wednesday hopes this will be the year the agency regulates cryptocurrency exchanges.
As lawmakers and the crypto industry’s major players debate how the booming asset class should be overseen, Washington’s regulatory agencies have been at the forefront of those discussions. A number of proposals are floating around Congress and the Executive branch, yet it’s unclear whether 2022 will see any of them get implemented.
“You shouldn’t put timelines on yourself, but I will say I sure hope so,” Gensler told Yahoo Finance on a call with reporters, when asked whether this be the year that the SEC regulates crypto trading platforms.
“If the trading platforms don’t come into their regulated space this would be another year of the public being vulnerable,” he added.
Gensler reiterated that there are “real vulnerabilities” with cryptocurrency exchanges, calling crypto a “highly speculative” asset class and underscoring that the platforms might be registered in some jurisdictions for some light consumer protection, but that it’s not about market integrity.
When asked whether the SEC would look to levy regulations on stablecoins this year, Gensler demurred. “I don’t want to get ahead of any one discussion with outside folks or any one possible investigation,” he added.
Yet once again, the SEC chief likened the asset class – digital coins that are pegged to a commodity or fiat currency – to poker chips in casinos. Gensler reiterated his view that some stable coins already may be securities that must be registered with the SEC and that the majority of cryptocurrencies are securities.
“To the extent that folks are operating outside the regulatory perimeter, but are supposed to be inside, we will bring enforcement actions,” said Gensler.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversight hearing on the SEC on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
The SEC chair says he’s asked his staff to get crypto trading platforms inside the “investor protection remit,” underscoring that he’s talking regularly with regulators at other agencies, including the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Comptroller of the Currency, Treasury and the Federal Reserve. All of those principals are also vectors of crypto exchange and stablecoin regulation.
Chair Gensler’s comments come as regulators are in the midst of a self-described “crypto sprint” to come up with regulations for crypto. Late last year, the Biden administration tasked Congress to come up with a framework for regulating stablecoins specifically – recommending that only banks be allowed to issue stablecoins while at the same time urging the regulatory agencies to write rules within their existing authorities.
Meanwhile, Republican Senators Cynthia Lummis and Pat Toomey – ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee – have come up with separate ideas for regulating crypto.
Gensler noted that stablecoins are similar to money market funds as well as bank deposits, because stablecoins represent money creation as investors move from a more volatile investment product that’s not being used by the public as payment to something more stable.
Platforms “are trying to contend that [stablecoins] are stable and backed just like money market funds raising important public policy concepts for regulators,” says Gensler.
“Stablecoins were invented by trading platforms and legal owners of stablecoins are the trading platforms and the trading platforms are saying here’s a return on a token. So it’s hard to unscramble that,” he added.
Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg says he sees a path for money market fund-like regulation of stablecoins, with liquidity and disclosure requirements from the SEC.
For more information about cryptocurrency, check out:
Dogecoin, what is it? How to buy it
Ethereum: What is it and how do you invest in it?
The top 21 crypto leaders to watch in the back half of 2021