The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Gary Gensler has made it clear that his rich background in blockchain and crypto doesn’t mean he’ll make any concessions for the nascent industry.
Before assuming his role at the SEC, Gensler taught a course on Bitcoin and blockchain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and even called crypto a "catalyst for change."
However, in an interview with Bloomberg, the former Goldman Sachs partner stressed that while he’s neutral, or even “intrigued” when it comes down to the technology, he’s definitely “not neutral about investor protection.”
“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud,” said Gensler.
While the SEC considers Bitcoin—the world’s largest and most popular cryptocurrency—a commodity rather than a security, there’s a plethora of other digital coins the Commission sees as unregistered securities.
Gensler’s first priority is regulating large crypto exchanges. Coinbase and Binance.US, the two largest entities available for American citizens, have processed nearly $3 billion crypto trades in the last 24 hours, according to CoinGecko.
Reigning in these centralized platforms may not be difficult for authorities like the SEC. The latest wave of regulatory actions against Binance has been proof of that.
Regulating decentralized counterparts like Uniswap will, however, be far more complex.
SEC weighs DeFi risks
The Commission has already identified several risks in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space, which offers new ways of entering into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending.
Gensler added that loans offered by DeFi platforms could be subject to government regulation if there’s a specific interest-rate return on an asset advertised. Similarly, liquidity pools could be treated the same way as mutual funds—something that would result in the SEC oversight as well.
While Gensler didn’t specify when any such action could come in force, he pointed to other areas the SEC is keeping a close eye on, including initial coin offerings (ICO), stablecoins, custodial services, and exchange-traded funds (ETF).
“I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” said Gensler without commenting on a possibility of the Commission approving a Bitcoin ETF anytime soon.
Last month, the SEC chair hinted that the SEC could go after the so-called stock tokens—digital coins that function as representations of traditional stocks, such as Facebook, Google, or Tesla.