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  • L Higgins and S Pettigrove

CFTC Chair calls on Congress to enact crypto legislation

In a recent appearance before the House Agriculture Committee, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Rostin Behnam emphasised the pressing need for legislative action to address regulatory gaps in the digital asset markets.

"Fill the gap in crypto regulation," Behnam urged, underlining the need for proactive measures to mitigate potential risks in the burgeoning crypto market. He cautioned against dismissing cryptocurrencies as a passing trend, asserting that such a notion is erroneous. This notion, of course, is not unfamiliar to crypto enthusiasts, who have heard countless times of the impending death of cryptocurrencies. This has even become an inside joke for blockchain veterans, with the creation of the popular and ironic "Bitcoin Obituaries" website being one such example.

Central to Behnam's plea is the recognition of bitcoin as a commodity, a stance he reiterated during the committee hearing. Referring to bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) as the two predominant tokens in the digital asset market, Behnam noted their significant share in the overall cryptocurrency market capitalisation.

Behnam's remarks were prompted by questions regarding the Financial Innovation and Technology Act for the 21st Century (FIT Act), a legislative proposal that has garnered traction, but failed to progress to a floor vote. The discussion at the hearing revolved around broader concerns regarding the CFTC's jurisdiction and budgetary requirements for the forthcoming fiscal year.

Expressing confidence in the CFTC's ability to establish a regulatory framework within a year of congressional approval of the FIT Act, Behnam underscored the agency's preparedness to adapt to evolving market dynamics.

The classification of cryptocurrencies as commodities faced scrutiny from lawmakers, with Rep. John Duarte seeking clarification on the matter. Behnam noted:

If [BTC] is not a security, then it's a commodity

Behnam's advocacy for regulatory clarity echoes broader industry sentiments regarding the necessity for a coherent regulatory framework. It is also in stark contrast with the SEC's regulation by enforcement approach, which asserts that existing regulations are clear. Notwithstanding this divergence, both the CFTC and the SEC have taken a large number of enforcement actions in digital asset markets, a point which Behnam emphasised during the hearing noting that these cases assumed nearly half of the CFTC's docket in 2023.

In conclusion, Behnam's plea for congressional action reflects a growing recognition that cryptocurrencies are here to stay and the attendant need for regulatory clarity. As the industry continues to mature, concerted efforts towards establishing a robust regulatory framework are imperative to facilitate responsible innovation and safeguard investors.

Written by Luke Higgins and Steven Pettigrove


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