SEC chair Gensler calls for Congress to work on investor protections for crypto exchanges


Gary Gensler, the newly-named chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is asking Congress to make some key decisions around crypto regulation. 

While testifying during a May 6 hearing of the House Financial Services Committee on market volatility surrounding GameStop and other meme-ified securities, Gensler fielded a question from Ranking Member Patrick McHenry about concrete steps "to further the crypto market."

"This market, which is close to $2 trillion, [the] crypto-asset market, is one that could benefit from greater investor protection," Gensler commented, remarking:

"I do think that working with Congress, and I think it's only Congress that can really address it, it would be good to consider...whether to bring greater investor protection to the crypto exchanges. And I think if that were to be the case, because right now, the exchanges trading in these crypto-assets do not have a regulatory framework either at the SEC or at our site agency, the [CFTC], that could instill greater confidence.

"Right now, there’s not a market regulator around these crypto exchanges and thus there’s really not protection against fraud or manipulation,” Gensler went on to say.

The crypto community has been watching Gensler's term at the SEC with great interest, largely because his resume includes more extensive crypto experience than his predecessors. 

Gensler is also laying the groundwork for new reports on manipulation of capital markets via social media, as well as the prospect of same-day (or T+0) settlement.

"It will take a lot of work by many parties, we now have the technology to further shorten the settlement cycles, not only to the settlement cycle we had a century ago, but even to same-day settlement," said Gensler "I believe shortening the standard settlement cycle could reduce costs and risks in our markets. I’ve directed the SEC staff to put together a draft proposal for the Commission’s review on this topic.”

When it comes to T+0, Gensler finds himself on the same side as Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, who has consistently argued that a shortened settlement time could have averted the drama surrounding Robinhood earlier this year as GameStop and other meme-friendly stocks saw their values rise sharply.

Gensler further noted that the SEC was paying more attention to the interactions between social media and market behavior. Institutional tools measuring social media responses can create a dangerous feedback loop. As Gensler said:

"This practice, called sentiment analysis, has picked up steam in the last couple of years, and it has grown to include online communities. With that comes the risk that nefarious actors may try to send signals to manipulate the market. This is an area for which we will continue to deepen our understanding, resources, and capabilities."

Among legislation on the table at Thursday's hearing is one bill that would require the SEC to report on the role of "gamification" in investment. Gamification, the bill suggests, is a form of marketing that, when it touches on investments, may feature elements on investment advice.

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