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At least not overtly. Take a deeper look, though, and there are multiple possibilities for regulators to get their feet wet.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) isn’t overly concerned with bitcoin right now.
The agency released its regulatory agenda for the spring and summer on Friday, and crypto isn’t on it, despite SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s recent statements that consumers would benefit from regulation of exchanges and that the agency should be ready to enforce crypto cases.
Instead, the agency is developing and completing regulations for special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs; short sale disclosures; money market reforms; the gamification of trading platforms such as Robinhood; and a variety of other concerns. The agenda of the SEC is divided into three stages: prerule, proposed rule, and final rule.
However, if you look a bit further, you can find places where the SEC may examine cryptocurrency. “I could imagine the gamification thing touching on digital assets (Robinhood effect),” lawyer Gabriel Shapiro told Decrypt, referring to anticipated trading platform regulations.
Furthermore, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce’s proposed “safe harbour” for crypto ventures may surface during an exempt offering prerule process. This is because, under her plan, projects including tokens that would ordinarily be deemed securities—that is, tradeable investment contracts—would be granted a “time-limited exemption” from reporting with the regulator.
In May, Gensler testified before the House Financial Services Committee about how bitcoin exchange regulation could safeguard investors. However, he said that it would need to be led by Congress because cryptocurrency is neither fish nor fowl. Bitcoin and several other cryptocurrencies are not considered securities by the SEC. “Right now, there isn’t a market regulator around these crypto exchanges, so there’s really no protection against fraud or manipulation,” Gensler explained.
That isn’t to say the SEC isn’t keeping an eye on the industry. It just issued a warning that Bitcoin futures are a “highly speculative investment.” According to a May analysis from Cornerstone Research, it has assessed over $1.7 billion in fines against bitcoin enterprises. The majority of the agency’s crypto-related charges included fraud, with more than two-thirds involving suspected unregistered securities offerings, such as Telegram’s planned TON token and Block.one’s EOS token sale.