CFTC Chair calls for comprehensive regulation for digital assets following ETF approvals

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In a detailed speech delivered in Naples on Jan. 26, CFTC Chair Rostin Behnam said regulators need to ramp up their efforts to supervise the budding cryptocurrency industry following the approval of Bitcoin ETFs, which does not imply the sector is regulated.

Benham expressed significant concerns regarding the current state of cryptocurrency and digital asset regulation. His address highlighted the challenges and regulatory gaps in the rapidly evolving digital asset landscape and urged the need for comprehensive federal oversight.

Comprehensive regulation needed

A central theme of Behnam’s remarks was the absence of a cohesive legislative framework for the cash markets of digital assets.

He emphasized the risks and uncertainties stemming from this lack of regulation, particularly in areas critical to market integrity, such as trade settlement, conflicts of interest, data reporting, cybersecurity, and customer protections.

Benham stressed that this regulatory void leads to opaque and inconsistent practices in the cryptocurrency market. The CFTC Chair also responded to the SEC’s recent approval of applications to list and trade shares of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded products (ETPs).

While recognizing this as a step towards the integration of cryptocurrencies into established financial systems, he cautioned against the potential misinterpretation of such approvals as indicative of comprehensive market regulation.

Proactive approach

Behnam’s speech also highlighted the CFTC’s proactive efforts in policing the crypto space. He highlighted that nearly half of all CFTC actions filed in Fiscal Year 2023 were related to digital asset commodities, reflecting the watchdog’s commitment to enforcing compliance within its jurisdiction.

Despite the CFTC’s limited direct authority over digital asset spot markets, these actions represent a significant focus on maintaining market integrity and investor protection in the volatile cryptocurrency sector.

Concluding his address, Behnam reiterated the urgent need for federal legislation to govern the cryptocurrency markets effectively. He advocated for a balanced approach that ensures market stability and investor protection while fostering innovation and growth in the digital asset space.

The speech was a clear indication of the CFTC’s proactive stance in addressing the evolving landscape of digital assets, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive legislation and effective oversight in this dynamic sector.

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