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Notes from the Hearing Today
Apologies for typos and grammatical errors; wanted to get this out as soon as possible for those that weren't able to watch the live stream. Cleaned up formatting to make it more readable.
While this isn't a 100% word-for-word transcript, the overtone of the meeting should have been conveyed. SEC and CFTC want protections for consumers, but don't want to outright ban crypto. I was under the impression that both agencies were well-educated, but understaffed. They both want to introduce protections for customers and investors and go after scam artists, but don't want to impose any restrictions or regulations that would be bad for crypto as a whole (both from a security perspective, and a technological innovation perspective). Overall a huge positive.
Touched on the definition, use, history, all-time-high, market cap, negative news
Mentioned that the techonology has positives to transform the financial landscape, transfer risk
Volatility, 1000% rise, 60% fall, compared to DOW Jones
touched on scam artists/hackers, undereducated market participants
mentioned there are regulatory gaps, potentials for abuse
neither SEC/CFTC has authority to police all aspects
mentioned some analogies to the dotcom bubble
may be used to fund illicit activity
says they need to do more to get ahead of the curve
"don't forget your day jobs to pursue and punish misconduct", mentioned the 3 big banks being punished recently
crypto brings us to a new age, but don't overlook the princilpes of going after the bad guys and being tough
estimated highest market cap $700 bn; promising new technology
great efficiencies, including capital markets; seek to WORK WITH those who seek to bring innovation
Crypto currencies - replacement for dollars
widely known introduced as substitutes
make it easier and cheaper ot buy and sell goods
verification and fees/costs eliminated
ICOs - stock offering
stocks and bonds, under a new label
security being offered is a virtual token
"if it functions as a security, it IS a security"
doesn't mean you are investing in blockchain ventures
market have less oversight than traditional securities
if it looks like a stock exchange, don't take comfort
no capital and conduct requirements
many ICOs are conducted illegally
creators not following securities laws
those who try to circumvent the SEC are in their crosshairs
do not have control over the regulation of the markets that exchanges exist in
"do not view this as a request for increased SEC jurisdiction"
"I believe every ICO I have seen is a security"
we are working with the DOJ to enforce laws
story about how his kids recently showed an interest in Bitcoin
"we must foster their interest, but crack down hard on those that abuse"
response should have several elements:
learn as much as we can - Lab CFTC to engage with innovators
put things in perspective - as of this morning, Bitcoin 113 bn market cap. less than the market cap of McDonald's. sometimes compared to gold; value of gold dwarfs Bitcoin at 8 trillion market cap
educate consumers - podcasts, webinars, visits to libraries, outreach to seniors
legal authority - "The CFTC does not regulate the dozens of cryptocurrencies"; through their authority, they have enforcement over spot coin markets; analyze manipulation
tough enforcement - they have already launched civil actions, more will follow overall take: wants to work to foster education but introduce protections
Suggesting that perhaps one or both of SEC/CFTC may or should have full control
we should all come together and have a coordinated plan for dealing with the virtual currency market
far from how the stock market is addressed
asked by Crapo if there needs to be additional measures, responded "we may"
FINCEN has been active with AML/KYC
there isn't a comprehensive structure to deal with this
cross-border and international concerns; what challenges?
international nature means patchwork is not sufficient
FINCEN reports that these currencies are used for
encourages FINCEN to continue pursuing this
Markets have been global
Challenge working with overseas and bringing regulations
Challenge requires a lot of new thinking
Encourage to work together to decide how the regulation should look
ICOs raised $4bn globally
SEC focused to protect investors
not clear how much was raised in the U.S., due to unregulated basis; "significant portion"
cooperation between SEC and CFTC regulating Bitcoin but doesn't mention consumer protection bureau CFPB
we're in the enforcement perspective, i can check on that
report that "SEC has stopped enforcement actions against wall street firms"
"I saw that report"; found it annoying; gestation period is 22-24 months, latency period
we've put out a comprehensive report; i'm happy with that
we're pursuing our securities laws vigorously
troubled by a statement "SEC might lose 100 of its enforcement staff by not hiring those who leave"
how are you going to stay on top of everything else we've talked about as well as virtual currencies
personnel is my biggest challenge at the moment
we have a hiring freeze - natural cost, trouble finding people, etc
would receive the "greatest return for additional bodies"
is that the message that you're not the cop it should be?
not at all
I hope you will ask for money and flexibility
I've been very straight about money and value that can be added
Federal reserve is the biggest bank regulator we have
how are you going to put together a task force to deal with crypto currencies before this gets out of control
treasury secretary has brought us together to talk about this
"the funny thing is, they only work for their purported purpose if they're integrated with the financial service"
we are going to be coordinating responses; needs to be clear as to what we're doing
do you need additional legislation
we may be back to ask for that
virtual; go to a virtual doctor, virtual currency, etc
"i started out with pencil and paper in school"
Lack intrinsic value, lack liquidity
gained money going up, lost money going down
don't know where the floor is
relation between Bitcoin value and the cost of mining
charts plotting the correlation
the floor isn't zero, because there is some cost
"think there is something to the value of the crypto exchange"
"I'm not seeing the benefits manifesting themselves in the market yet"
"I'm interested in protecting the main street investors; they should see that"
in the securities world, there are rules that dictate how much you have to tell someone about what they're investing in
we will give you every tool you need to do your job and to hire every person you need to execute that
(essentially) do you have any cryptologists?
emerging area; could always use more horsepower
hired the industry's first "chief innovation officer"
started Lab CFTC
formed virtual currency task force
brought 3 cases against bitcoin fraudsters
used bypass authority for additional resources (13% over budget)
Bitcoin isn't the only one; there are seemingly new ones every day
are you tracking them all?
is someone looking at the long-term systemic effects
eerily similar to late-90s derivatives
Bitcoin is one of many; important to know that many are fraudulent
"MyBigCoin" which became known as "MyBigCon" - Ponzi scheme; we went after them
relatively small market, but we have to watch it
we have had to watch it because they're integrated with the markets we do oversee
on systemic - agrees with Giancarlo
if people are getting ripped off, that is an issue
"I used a pen and pencil as well"
fascinating to see how things are moving
we keep coming back to dollars and cents
new type of exchange; bartering
could avoid determination of the value of the dollar and cents
how do you tax? how do you recognize income?
seems that have to be filled, but basics that a lot of us don't understand
how do you respond to ICOs?
definition of a security is broad
"when you're offering me something and i give you money and the purpose of me giving you money is to profit from your actions going forward"
is Bitcoin a commodity or a security or is it both?
has characteristics of both
is a "medium of exchange, store of value, or a means of account"
we hear a lot of people holding - "HODL - hold on for dear life"
30 year old niece bought some years ago, is holding on
in this regard, it's a commodity
we are looking for fraud and manipulation so that people like his niece are protected
Jan 26th Bloomberg "SEC weighs a big gift [...] blocking class action lawsuits"
wants to get a straight yes/no - "do you support this enormous change in SEC policy"
bottom line - "I can't dictate whether or not this issue comes to us, but I'm not anxious to see a change in this area"
change can't happen without your approval
I'm only 1 of 5 votes
I'd guess there will be at lest 2 votes against it
It would take a long time
I'll let you get away with that
SEC's mission is to protect; not throw under bus
advisers that put fees, kickbacks for recommending product ahead of interest of clients
I want to know that you will not weaken the protections for retirement savers
that's what I'm trying to do - the relation between a broker and their client is regulated by no less than 5 people (the SEC)
want to make sure you're not jeopardizing investors
insufficient standard, lack of clarity, "the standard is only as good as the remedy available"
what dollars do you actually collect when someone does you harm?
if you want to strengthen it, i'm with you
who pays for frivolous lawsuits?
regulatory arbitrage, hard to trace
South Korea, China
was a largely unregulated space
each country is now taking regulatory measures
there's a lot happening beyond the understanding of your average investor
what do we need to do to combat this?
regulatory arbitrage, price arbitrage
different regional and international market
regulation - i think some time ago there was a perception Bitcoin was off the regulatory grid
enforcement / ICOs - we're using our full authority
we will go after misconduct
pump and dump
unregulated exchange, ability for price manipulation
we've taken 3 cases in the last few weeks, more to come
digging deep, learning a lot, seeing a lot
we are working the beat hard
what about retail investors?
formed partnership with CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
Bitcoin is one of the most frequently searched term on library computers
enhancing outreach to educate people coming to the library
getting the word out - financial intermediaries
are you protecting retirement investments
seniors seem to be the prey of choice - not just for Bitcoin
we seek to prosecute these predators
article from Kentucky "Bitcoin is my potential pension"
what would you do to protect them?
troubling, which is why we're putting out so much material
"if it sounds too good to be true, it is"
"if you're giving them money, you'd better be prepared to lose it"
disruptive technologies, but you shouldn't bank on it
pumping all of your money into a disruptive technology has a very high probability of not working out
"there will be winners, but there will be many losers"
want to ensure it's not used against terrorist groups and countries like N Korea
working with FBI; will require cooperation among multiple organizations
also has a dark web working group
when was the last time you bought a fund?
a year or two ago, index funds
did you read the fine print?
not cover to cover
so what's the point of all this over-disclosure if nobody's reading it?
why do we want to do the same for Bitcoin?
adequacy of full disclosure
"I don't think the disclosure we have right now works"
good for lawyers / financial advisers, but right now, we over-disclose
how far should we go to protect people from themselves?
how far do you think we ought to go here? should we just go after the shysters and fully disclose?
what is the right way to deal with this new technology?
we want to deal with ICOs; don't want to go too far
our securities laws work pretty well, but disclosure can be improved
we have to have disclosure that works, and helps the helpless people
if we see the same continued growth, we may see the market cap at 20 trillion dollars by 2020
we may see the same transformation take place
we are going to have to wrap our hands around this
not sure what the right answer is, but this could systemically rise to an FSOC-level event
if this does keep going, is this a systemic issue?
want to go back to separating these two things
should regulate ICOs like securities
false disclosure is fraud, period
so much more to be done
Ethereum - creating "file sharing or extra computer time"
are these in your realm?
if it's an ICO that promises to deliver server time, it's a security
worried that we need a much more coordinated effort
could be as transformational as wireless technology
it is important; we are all working to understand our authorities
bitcoin futures are different; fully transparent and regulated, compared to Bitcoin that's opaque and unregulated
ICOs should be taken under our regime
Putting aside Bitcoin and other distributed ledger, what do you think the value is?
Without Bitcoin, there would be nothing. everything grew out of it.
applications range from financial services and banking, to charity dollars are spent, refugee, access to banking for those who don't have it
66 million tons of soybeans were traded using Bitcoin
allow regulators to do really close market surveillance with precision
challenges, but the potential is significant
agree the potential is significant
hope people pursue it vigorously
DOW Jones fell 4.6%; dollar seen 2% inflation or less; Bitcoin seems to be very volatile in comparison
we have seen volatility but in our world, we're used to it
emergence of futures to provide those who are exposed to it
don't really know what's driving the volatility
not related to foreign currencies
must be something different
lot of volatility compared to what they're supposed to be a substitute for
(essentially) so how does that bode to its claim?
it would not be a very effective means of exchange
with the volatility and delays, there's a significant risk
(quick shout out to) rogue nations, hackers, etc
under what circumstances do the SEC and CFTC have a role in regulating this?
fraud and manipulation - will not hesitate to take authority
what about manipulating to avoid U.S. sanctions?
I'll have to look into that
are there gaps that could create vulnerabilities?
part of a virtual currency task force; includes the fed and FINCEN
meeting with FINCEN this week to get some discussion of cooperation started
seen increase in ICOs; investors using digital tokens
grew from $96mil in 2016 to $4bil in 2017
celebrity promotion - Floyd Mayweather, Kardashian, et al
investors may not understand true risk when they see a product promoted by celebrities
we put out an alert that if you promote a security, you are taking on securities law liability
can you walk us through why the SEC is not comfortable with approving ETFs with crypto currencies?
we've made it clear that there are some issues - price discovery, custody, volatility
don't want to approve an ETF product with a cryptocurrency underlier without working out these issues
don't ETFs mitigate those concerns? are crypto currencies different?
MGT act - modernizing government technologies
create a fund for federal agencies to rid themselves of legacy technology
allows access to dollars; move to cloud
i would be delighted that there isn't a SEC/CFTC hack in the papers soon; advise strengthening cyber security
Kodak and Burger King investments
companies are using block chain as an opportunity to pump up stock prices
Long Island Ice Tea - Long Blockchain
nobody should think it's okay to chain your name to something that contains block chain when you have no idea what you're doing
any time there's something new that can raise the value of their stock without the underlying goods being there, it's not good
ICOs misrepresenting their affiliation where there are wild claims
"Our big task is bringing in enforcement cases and letting people see that"
3bn Bitcoin have been hacked, $500bn hack weeks ago, MtGox
what can buyers do to get their money back?
when you engage in investing online with an offshore entity, the chances that we can do anything to get your money back are very low
for the underlying spot markets, we don't have the authority to enforce safeguards and protections; this is a problem
"It's the old axiom "buyer beware"."
(in regards to the stock market) "Is this perhaps more than ordinary correction?"
I asked my staff and the federal government the same question
nothing to indicate any of our systems didn't indicate properly
largest volume since 2016
Neither single stock nor circuit breakers triggered
Nothing that came out of this are concerning
Is it profit taking? Is it a spook?
Interest rates? Fed has info we don't have?
Economy high, unemployment low?
Combination? Can we really say?
I can't really say. Lots of opinions.
Our job is to look at the systemic risks.
I've not seen anything.
"Markets up? More people bought than sold. Market down? More people sold than bought."
Markets are very complex. Fundamentals are sound. Doesn't appear to be any significant breeches.
Some ICOs are legitimate, some are just Ponzi schemes
"It's now so bad that Facebook recently banned all ads for virtual currencies"
How do we make ICOs safer?
Companies raised more than $4bil
How many companies registered with SEC?
Can you say just a word as to why that's so?
the gatekeepers haven't done their job. we've made it clear what the law is.
there are thousands of private placements. we want them to raise capital. but we want them to do it right.
folks somehow got comfortable that this was new and it's okay.
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