Top US commodities cop challenges SEC on bitcoin regulation

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A feud has broken out over which US regulator has the authority to regulate cryptocurrencies, with the interim head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission challenging Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler.

On Wednesday, acting chair of the CFTC Rostin Behnam argued with the Senate Agriculture Committee that the CFTC should have jurisdiction over the $2 trillion cryptocurrency market — in part because 60 percent of it, including bitcoin, is classified as a commodity.

“I think it’s important for this committee to reconsider and consider expanding authority for the CFTC,” Behnam said.

“The CFTC has responsibly and aggressively been pursuing enforcement cases in the digital asset marketplace for a number of years now,” he added.

That’s despite the SEC’s hard-charging Gensler asking Congress last month to expand the stock market regulator’s jurisdiction over digital assets. Since taking over the SEC, Gensler has argued time and time again that cryptocurrencies are a security and therefore should be regulated by the SEC.

rostin benham
The CFTC’s Rostin Behnam is making the case why he should be responsible for regulating the more than $2 trillion crypto market.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gensler previously taught about financial technology and blockchain at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and sees the space as his specialty, people close to Gensler told The Post.

It’s not just regulatory agencies that are quibbling over who has jurisdiction of the new technology — Congress is also seeking to understand what role it should play in regulation.

And Gensler appears more willing to make concessions to Congress than to the CFTC. Earlier this month, Gensler told the House Committee on Financial Services that the only body with authority to ever ban cryptocurrencies outright was Congress.

The cryptocurrency market is valued around $2 trillion.
The cryptocurrency market is valued around $2 trillion.
Getty Images

But even as the SEC, which serves as Wall Street’s top cop, vies for control of crypto, the agency could face an uphill battle to win the role of crypto’s top cop.

“Given the size, the scope and the scale of this emerging market … I think it’s critically important to have a primary cop on the beat and certainly the CFTC is prepared to do that if this committee so wishes,” Behnam said in his remarks.

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