Regulatory Dynamics: SEC and CFTC Navigate Cryptocurrency ETFs and Market Oversight

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler recently addressed senators during a budget hearing, revealing that the final approvals for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) trading Ethereum’s ether (ETH) are expected to be completed by summer. Gensler assured the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee that the process has been progressing smoothly following the initial approval of a batch of ETFs. While the agency had previously granted initial approval for these ETFs, Gensler noted that the final registration requirements, known as S-1 filings, are currently being managed at the staff level.

Once these filings receive approval, the newly established ETFs can be listed, providing wider market access to easily tradable funds backed by actual ether, mirroring the earlier introduction of Bitcoin spot ETFs. Gensler also acknowledged the agency’s previous resistance to Bitcoin ETFs until a federal court intervened, leading to a change in SEC’s approach, allowing such ETFs.

During the hearing, Gensler avoided directly classifying ETH as a commodity, maintaining the SEC’s ambiguous stance on the matter. In contrast, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chief Rostin Behnam affirmed ETH’s classification as a commodity. This distinction is significant for determining the appropriate regulatory authority for various tokens, with the SEC overseeing securities tokens and the CFTC having jurisdiction over others.

Gensler emphasized that while not all cryptocurrencies are considered securities, those falling under his agency’s jurisdiction must disclose to the public. He criticized the industry for disregarding regulations and highlighted the CFTC’s lack of readiness to enforce disclosure-based oversight, suggesting it differs from the SEC’s approach.

Behnam echoed concerns about the CFTC’s limited regulatory tools for policing crypto markets and emphasized the need for additional resources to bolster oversight. He also addressed the agency’s recent efforts to block prediction markets related to election outcomes, citing concerns about their legality and potential to undermine democratic processes.

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