CFTC commissioner stresses limits on agency's authority in the crypto space in bitcoin conference speech

In an April 16 speech before Texas A&M's Bitcoin Conference, commissioner Dawn Stump outlined a number of often-overlooked limits to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's purview.

The CFTC, as its name suggests, regulates commodity futures markets, not spot markets, Stump reminded the audience. The commission can bring enforcement against certain criminal conduct in spot markets for commodities, but it actively keeps tabs on futures markets for commodities and certain securities.

As Stump said:

"I often worry that the CFTC’s exercise of that authority may leave the public with the impression that we are the frontline regulator of cash digital asset markets. This is simply not the case, nor in my opinion is this what the CFTC is best tasked to do."

Referencing CFTC enforcement actions against Derivibit, BitMEX and TeraExchange, Stump denied that the commission had been targeting crypto in particular:

"As for enforcement activities related to bitcoin (and other digital assets), the CFTC has taken actions against unregistered derivatives exchanges, and registered derivatives exchanges that have violated requirements imposed on them by the CEA and CFTC regulations. These are the same types of actions the CFTC would take against exchanges offering derivatives involving any other commodity."

In keeping with the overall reminder of the CFTC's limits, Stump told the audience that she was also waiting for a resolution to SEC v. Ripple, which will have major ramifications for which cryptocurrencies end up in the regulatory purviews of which agencies.

In her words: "I am watching the outcome of this case closely because it will help to establish the scope of the SEC’s authority in the digital assets space."

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