Regulatory Clarity? Gensler Can’t Give a Simple Yes or No on Ethereum
SEC Chair Gary Gensler says the digital asset industry has clarity — here’s that clarity, in full
Gumbariya/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks
Gary Gensler, the chair of the SEC appeared before Congress today to answer questions regarding his controversial tenure.
Among the questioners: Chair of the Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry.
Regulators and prosecutors have been asserting, variously, that ether is a security (the attorney general of New York) or a commodity (the CFTC), or that it was a commodity in the past, but now they won’t say (the SEC’s director of corporate finance, William Hinman, said that neither ether nor bitcoin were securities in 2018).
Given that Gensler has spent considerable energy telling the digital asset industry that they have all the regulatory clarity they need, it’s worth transcribing the interchange between the two men word-for-word, so that you can judge for yourself if Gensler was clear.
McHenry asked Gensler some very specific questions, including this one, regarding Ether (ETH), the native token of the Ethereum blockchain.
“Clearly an asset cannot be both a commodity and a security. Do you agree?”
“Ummm, I… I… it’s… actually all securities are commodities under the Commodity and Exchange Act, it’s that we’re excluded commodities, but I would agree that a security cannot also be an excluded commodity and an included commodity, I’m sorry chair, just to talk about the Commodity Exchange Act, more precisely.”
McHenry did not appear to think this answer was an answer at all.
He followed up: “I’m asking you, sitting in your chair now, to make an assessment under the laws that exist: Is ether a commodity, or a security?”
“Without speaking to any one…” began Gensler.
“You’ve repeatedly said you won’t speak to one,” interrupted McHenry, “But you’ve spoken to one: bitcoin. So I’m asking you to speak to a second one, with the second largest market cap.”
“In speaking to the tokens,” Gensler replied, “There’s ten to twelve thousand, if there’s a group of entrepreneurs…”
“I’m asking about one,” interjected McHenry. “I’m asking you a specific question, Chair Gensler. I said this in private, this should be no shock to you that I’m asking this question. Is ether a commodity, or a security?”
Gensler: “And again, it depends on the facts and the law on if there’s a group of individuals…”
McHenry: “I’m asking about the facts and the law, sitting in your seat, and the judgment you are making.”
Gensler: “And so, Mr. Chair, I think you would not want me to prejudge…”
McHenry wasn’t having it. “But you have prejudged on this. You’ve taken 50 enforcement actions. We’re finding out as we go, as you file suit, as people get Wells notices on what is a security in your view and your agency’s view. I’m asking you a very simple question about the second-largest digital asset. What is your view?”
Once again, Gensler refused to answer. “And my view is, if there’s a group of individuals in the middle of it, the public is entitled…”
McHenry gave up and moved on.
There’s your regulatory clarity.
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