Ex-CFTC Chairman Discusses Celsius' Bankruptcy and CBDC Adoption

The former Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief joined CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover” to discuss why the bankruptcy of lender Celsius Network could set legal precedent in future crypto hearings, and why the likelihood of CBDC adoption worldwide could be based on Chinese technology.

AccessTimeIconJul 18, 2022 at 7:34 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:31 p.m. UTC
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The bankruptcy hearing of Celsius Network could bring greater legal certainty as people continue to use crypto lending platforms, former Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chief J. Christoper Giancarlo told CoinDesk TV's "First Mover" program Monday.

Giancarlo, now a senior counsel at law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, said that while the restructuring proposal is only a starting point for the Hoboken, N.J.-headquartered lending platform, it will be the first time a federal bankruptcy court will weigh in on a crypto collateral-based bankruptcy.

“It’s for the good that [those issues] get sorted out because it’s going to be one of those mile markers in the progression of this new asset class,” Giancarlo said. “The regime that will be followed on a bankruptcy will be more clearly articulated.”

Celsius’ lawyers are scheduled to appear before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

While some experts claim Celsius could survive, Giancarlo noted that the Celsius “Chapter 11 filing is different.” Bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows a company to regroup, not put it out of business. That period of restructuring and reorganization "is exactly what Celsius is attempting to do.”

He pointed out that in most cases “we often think about bankruptcy as the final step in the end of a company or enterprise’s existence.”

Whether the platform will emerge unscathed has yet to be seen, however.

“Even management themselves seem to be admitting that they’ve made some bad moves [and] some bad decisions,” he said, but added that “bad decisions [are] endemic to business.”

Giancarlo said that while the decisions made by Celsius point to misguided business practices, the same can be applied to any business enterprises, not just those involving crypto.

“Whenever you've got humans in business, you're going to have mistakes. This company [Celsius] seems to be ready to admit [its] fair share of them,” Giancarlo said.

China’s digital yuan and CBDC adoption

Giancarlo, who is also co-founder of the Digital Dollar Foundation, told CoinDesk TV that within a decade a third of the world could be using Chinese technology to power their digital assets. He points to China's adoption of the digital yuan (e-CNY) as a model other countries could soon follow.

“It’s programmable, it’s networkable into all kinds of devices from mobile phones to wristwatches as well as networked into the broader commercial activity,” he said. “It’s quite sophisticated.”

But the digital yuan also has the “ability to perform surveillance and censorship,” he added, which could be an attribute “a lot of countries around the world that don’t have free societies would like to have and would like to import.”

Monitoring financial activity could also raise the question of “what happens in a run-on-the-bank situation,” Giancarlo noted.

The benefits and drawbacks of a U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC) are areas the Digital Dollar Foundation wants to explore as it works to create pilot testing.

“'Would a digital dollar be more quickly withdrawn from bank accounts in a run or could the opposite be true? Could people actually be more reluctant to withdraw their money or less ready to withdraw?’” he said.

In comparison, there are about 250 million registered digital wallets holding China’s digital yuan, which could make it the world’s largest pilot project, he said. Other financial powerhouses like the United States and Europe “need to take notice,” he added.

“Within 10 years you could see Chinese CBDC technology and infrastructure in place in as much as a third of the globe,” he said.


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Fran Velasquez

Fran is CoinDesk's TV writer and reporter.

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