In brief

  • SEC chairman Jay Clayton has announced that he will step down at the end of 2020.
  • Clayton had been the chairman of the SEC since May 2017.
  • During his tenure, the SEC fined a number of crypto projects that ran initial coin offerings (ICOs).

SEC chairman Jay Clayton will step down at the end of this year, according to a statement today. This will be six months earlier than his original plan to step down in June 2021.

“Working alongside the incredibly talented and driven women and men of the SEC has been the highlight of my career,” Clayton said.

“I am proud of our collective efforts to advance each part of the SEC’s tripartite mission, always with an eye on the interests of our Main Street investors. The US capital markets ecosystem is the strongest and most nimble in the world, and thanks to the hard work of the diverse and inclusive SEC team, we have improved investor protections, promoted capital formation for small and larger businesses, and enabled our markets to function more transparently and efficiently,” he added.

Clayton had been the chairman of the SEC since May 2017 and his tenure covers the most recent years of Bitcoin's biggest bull market and the huge wave of ICOs. Clayton was known in the crypto community for his stance that (nearly) all ICOs are selling unregistered securities. He notably said, however, that Bitcoin was likely not a security, and that perhaps neither was Ethereum too. The SEC later reaffirmed this stance.

Over the last few years, the SEC fined many crypto projects that ran ICOs. In the last year alone, it collected $1.26 billion in illegal income and fines from crypto projects, the majority of which was money collected in Telegram's ICO, to be paid back to investors.

Recently, Clayton has shown more support for blockchain-based products. In a recent seminar, he said, “It may very well be the case that [...stocks] all become tokenized.”

He showed that he was even open to the idea of a tokenized exchange-traded fund, or ETF—essentially, a stock with a price tracks an index. “We're willing to try that; our door is wide open. If you want to show how to tokenize the ETF product in a way that adds efficiency, we want to meet with you, we want to facilitate that,” he said.

However, it will now be up to his predecessor to make it happen.