For nearly two years, the crypto industry has awaited—nay, demanded—clear, plain English guidance from the SEC.
Now, at last, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission appears to be finally… preparing to maybe hire someone who might help do that at some point down the road.
It’s a start!
CoinDesk reported this morning that the SEC is on the lookout for a qualified crypto attorney to help lead the Commission’s Division of Trading and Markets on all things crypto and “digital asset securities.” We reviewed the job listing and it definitely appears to probably not be a joke. (You can never be too sure on a day like this.)
Pleased to announce that I have already accepted this position so you can stop @'ing me. (The commission was swayed by my plan to fast track @prestonjbyrne's marmot ETF). https://t.co/8cujd8J7HP
— Palley (@stephendpalley) April 1, 2019
Among the responsibilities that the SEC’s prospective “Crypto Specialist” will undertake is to “establish a comprehensive plan to address crypto and digital asset securities” for the Commission. Good luck with that.
This poor soul will also serve as the face of the SEC’s crypto policymaking—the “point of contact” for other regulatory agencies, blockchain startups, and the general public. (Prepare thyself, prospective applicant, for the inquisition that awaits you: What the hell does the SEC mean by “sufficiently decentralized”? Is XRP A SECURITY???)
The job posting marks the first major hiring effort for the SEC in its attempt to regulate the crypto industry since bringing on Valerie “Ask Permission not Forgiveness” Szczepanik as Senior Advisor for Digital Assets nearly a year ago.
It’s also notable since the Commission has seen budget constraints cause staffing shortages in certain areas ever since President Trump took office in 2016 and instituted a hiring freeze (which the SEC chose to continue entirely on its own volition without any political pressure whatsoever).
In fact, crypto lawyer extraordinaire Drew Hinkes (who’s just fine at his new gig at Carlton Fields, thank you) says the SEC’s defunding is part of the reason we haven’t seen more enforcement action over the last year.
“One of the strange benefits of this presidency has been the defunding of federal regulators,” he says. While it’s forced the SEC to be “more focused in their enforcement actions,” it also means that the Commission “has less resources than it needs, fewer bodies to throw at problems, and limited bandwidth to handle” the various questions that linger with regard to crypto and securities laws.
The new opening isn’t in the SEC’s enforcement division, but it does indicate the smallest of shifts in priorities.
Lewis Cohen, co-founder of the crypto-focused DLx Law, ever the optimist, says it’s all a very positive sign: “I think it’s really great that they are reaching out for further expertise in the subject matter and a very encouraging sign for those who have said all along that working with regulators is the best way to achieve productive results."
Will it be a case of too little too late, or better late than never? Or just a weak April Fool’s joke? For the wary crypto entrepreneurs pondering their next move, the answer can’t come soon enough.