This week, lawmakers and regulators announced that they are working on new rules and legislation in the crypto space. Federal agencies are also poised to step up their enforcement actions to protect consumers and investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are still defending that they are the right agency to supervise some crypto assets, but a senator announced a new bill could shed light on the issue. The CFPB wants to make sure other regulators coherently apply consumer financial protection rules, and it will issue new circulars to explain how to do it. The Fed published a final rule that may allow banks to delay certain instant payments when they use FedNow services to combat fraudulent activities.
Federal Agencies Have Something to Say About Crypto
On Monday (May 16), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler told an audience during the 2022 FINRA annual conference that until there is better regulation on the crypto space, the agency will “continue to be a cop on the beat.” The chairman also used this platform to reiterate that certain tokens, at least the ones he was referring to, are securities. The key difference between a commodity and security when it comes to digital tokens is the raising of money by a third party, Gensler argued.
Monday was not the only day Gensler talked about crypto. On Tuesday, in two different events, he explained first the need for the SEC to continue monitoring markets and enforcing securities laws, and second the additional funds necessary to cover these efforts.
Before a House Committee, Gensler requested an 8% increase of the SEC’s budget over FY22. This would mean around 400 new staff, 90 of those to be assigned to the enforcement and examination divisions.
Rostin Behnam, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), participated in several events this week where he reclaimed the position of his agency in the cryptocurrency space and suggested more enforcement actions are likely. Following the steps of the SEC, which is increasing its resources in the Crypto Unit, Behnam said that the CFTC will also look to prioritize the use of its existing authority to deter and combat fraud and manipulation in the crypto markets and will continue to add resources in this area.
On Tuesday, Sen. Cynthia Lummis told an audience at an American Enterprise Institution forum that she is planning to release a long-sought crypto bill for discussion next week — and the formal bill could be introduced in Congress as soon as 30 days afterward. The proposed bill is long-awaited by the crypto community because, as the senator confirmed, it will include some provisions defining whether a certain crypto asset is a security or a commodity and which agency will have oversight, either the SEC or the CFTC.
FinCEN Official Also Raises Voice Against Crypto Firms
On Thursday, Alessio Evangelista, associate director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) enforcement and compliance division, urged cryptocurrency companies not to bury their heads in the sand when faced with red flags. Cryptocurrency firms should be “vigilant” about illicit activity on their platforms and take a compliance-first approach to developing new tools.
CFPB and Fed Want to Protect Consumers and Prevent Fraud
On Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it will issue Consumer Financial Protection Circulars to government agencies and other enforcers to explain how the CFPB intends to enforce federal consumer financial law. The CFPB is concerned that, given the broad variety of agencies responsible for enforcing federal consumer financial law, there is a risk that companies might encounter inconsistent enforcement strategies and approaches.
On Thursday, the Federal Reserve finalized a rule that governs funds transfer over the Federal Reserve Bank’s FedNow services. The final rule is substantially similar to the proposal from last year, but some of the clarifications provided by the Fed will allow banks to have extra time to process instant payments if they believe funds may have a fraudulent origin.
The CFPB is looking out for consumers at risk of succumbing to false advertising stemming from misusing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) name or logo, a CFPB press release said Tuesday (May 17). The CFPB has released an enforcement memorandum saying firms can’t misuse the FDIC’s name or logo, or make deceptive representations for deposit insurance, which is meant to promote confidence in banking.
Big Firms Still Under Scrutiny
On Thursday, Sen. Mike Lee, jointed by senators Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthan and Ted Cruz introduced the Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act. If it becomes law, it will force Google to sell a big portion of its advertising business.
The bill aims at eliminating conflicts of interest in the digital advertising business, and given the position that Google enjoys in the different parts of the online advertising value chain, it will be the company most affected by the bill. Facebook and Amazon could also be required to divest parts of their advertising businesses.
Jonathan Kanter, head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division, warned buyout firms that they may be subject to tougher regulatory review if future deals have the potential to harm the American economy.
The role of buyout groups has been “extremely important” for the enforcement program of the agency, Kanter said. Historically, these groups have been key to acquiring parts of a business when other companies had to divest assets as a result of a merger investigation. The problem now is that some of the largest private equity groups remember the industrial conglomerates they used to help break apart.