What the Confirmation of Gary Gensler as SEC Chairman Means for Cryptocurrencies

What the Confirmation of Gary Gensler as SEC Chairman Means for Cryptocurrencies

As a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman, Gensler was always a popular candidate to assume the role of SEC Chair. “While the SEC has a reputation as a black hole for innovators, Gary Gensler recognizes the potential of digital assets,” tweeted Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis on the eve of Gensler’s confirmation.

Gary Gensler Why It Matters: The implication of a Gensler-led SEC could be far-reaching, especially if a focus on digital assets is on the agenda.

“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have brought new thinking to payments and financial inclusion. But they’ve also raised new issues of investor protection that we still need to attend to,” said Gensler at his nomination hearing. SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, often referred to as “Crypto Mom” for her positive outlook towards crypto, recently released an updated version of her token safe harbor proposal.

Gensler, who taught the course “Blockchain and Money” at MIT, has called it a “catalyst for change.” What sets him apart from his predecessors is that he will be the first cryptocurrency policy and blockchain technology expert to take the reins at the SEC.

“Now, as a new chair is coming into the SEC with a new agenda, is the perfect time for the commission to consider afresh how our rules can be modified to accommodate this new technology in a responsible manner,” said Peirce in a statement. The proposal allows decentralized finance companies issuing tokens on their native blockchain a three-year grace period to develop their network exempt from the registration provisions of the federal securities laws so long as certain conditions are met.

While Gensler’s era promises various changes to the crypto environment, market proponents were inarguably most excited by the prospect of a Bitcoin ETF approved shortly. In light of Gensler’s appointment as the new chairman, XRP advocates have already petitioned Gensler to “end the war on XRP.” The SEC’s ongoing lawsuit against Ripple (XRP) is an example of the ambiguity around the current regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies. Filed in the final months of Jay Clayton’s time as SEC chair, the lawsuit alleges that Ripple’s native cryptocurrency XRP is a security, and its initial distribution was an “illegal securities offering.”

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