The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) aims to regulate crypto exchanges, including DeFi exchanges, and has reopened an old proposal surrounding consumer protection laws to explicitly put digital asset trading within its scope.
According to a press release from the SEC on Friday, existing rules governing securities exchanges also apply to digital asset trading platforms and “so-called ‘DeFi’ systems.”
“I believe this supplemental release will help address comments on the proposal from various market participants, particularly those in the crypto markets,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in comments accompanying the press release.
The original proposal in January 2022 sought to extend existing exchange laws to systems that “provide protocols to bring together buyers and sellers for trading any type of security.” Those systems would be required to register as exchanges or broker-dealers and comply with regulations for Alternative Trading Systems. While the proposal didn’t explicitly mention crypto or DeFi, the ambiguity of its language drew criticism from the popular crypto exchange Coinbase, as well as crypto-supportive SEC commissioner Hester Peirce. The newly proposed changes would make clear crypto asset trading and DeFi exchanges are explicitly covered.
Gensler believes that the vast majority of crypto assets fall under securities laws, and that crypto exchanges should be subject to the same regulations and rules as other trading platforms. Peirce, on the other hand, frequently criticizes the chair for attempting to fit a new and novel industry into a ruleset it wasn’t built for.
Crypto Mom Responds
In her written response to Gensler on Friday, Peirce objected to the latest amendments, stating that they would create “confusing and unworkable standards” for network participants in DeFi, including miners and validators of the blockchains upholding its related protocols. Furthermore, she questions the ability of DeFi participants to satisfy exchange or broker-dealer registration requirements, or why such registrations make sense for DeFi at all.
“I wish we had proceeded differently,” she said. “We also could have benefited from roundtables to bring together people from all parts of our market to discuss these issues and help us understand them better.”
Peirce mocked the SEC’s decision in a tweet on Friday, asking if she would need to register as an exchange with the SEC to wear a shirt republishing software code.
In addition to ironing this t-shirt (which republishes code from a comment letter), will I need to register as an exchange before wearing it? “It depends,” per the SEC’s latest release: pic.twitter.com/xD7Lx2kJE6
— Hester Peirce (@HesterPeirce) April 14, 2023
Last week, the Treasury Department published a report outlining some of the national security and illicit finance risks presented by DeFi.