SEC chair calls for more power to regulate cryptocurrency

On Tuesday, chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission Gary Gensler called on Congress to expand the agency’s authority in regulating cryptocurrency trading, lending, and platforms.

“Right now, we just don’t have enough investor protection in crypto. Frankly, at this time, it’s more like the Wild West,” Gensler said in a speech to the Aspen Security Forum Tuesday. “We have taken and will continue to take our authorities as far as they go.”

Over the last few years, cryptocurrency tokens and platforms have flourished as US financial regulators have struggled to develop and apply to the new technology. Last December, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network proposed new regulations to make it easier for the federal government to track Bitcoin transactions in one of the few moves to monitor the market. But while other securities markets are directly overseen by federal regulators, but there is no single regulator in charge of overseeing cryptocurrencies as a financial market. Cryptocurrencies hit a record capitalization of $2 trillion earlier this year, according to Reuters.

Gensler’s remarks on Tuesday were some of the clearest he’s made regarding his thinking on cryptocurrency. Lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have called on regulators like Gensler to clamp down on the market. “These regulatory gaps endanger consumers and investors and undermine the safety of our financial markets,” Warren wrote in a letter to Gensler last month.

On Tuesday, Gensler responded by calling on Congress to give the SEC additional authority. “If we don’t address these issues, I worry a lot of people will be hurt,” Gensler said.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators reached a deal on a $1 trillion infrastructure package that included some language on cryptocurrency markets. Specifically, the bill included changes that would define some players in the market as “brokers,” opening them up to greater IRS scrutiny. As of Tuesday, that language was altered to assuage concerns by the cryptocurrency community, according to The New York Times.