CFTC Chair: Cryptocurrencies 'Unlike Any Commodity' Agency Has Seen

Cryptocurrencies have proven to be a unique challenge for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the agency's chairman has said.

Dec 12, 2017 at 4:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:15 a.m. UTC

Cryptocurrencies have proven to be a unique challenge for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), according to the agency's chairman.

In a statement made yesterday, J. Christopher Giancarlo, remarked on the risks posed by cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

His comments were a response to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Jay Clayton, whose comments on cryptocurrencies, also made yesterday, followed the latest enforcement action by the that agency.

Giancarlo commended his SEC counterpart for encouraging market participants and investors to "recognize risks and legal responsibilities they have regarding cryptocurrencies and [ICOs]."

He went on to say:

"I have said consistently that virtual currencies are unlike any commodity that the CFTC has dealt with in the past, and I know they pose challenges for the SEC as well."

Notably, Giancarlo added that the two agencies are in "regular communication" with each other regarding both digital currencies and ICOs, highlighting the degree of inter-agency cooperation within the U.S. government on issues around cryptocurrencies.

Giancarlo further noted that his agency cannot effectively regulate cryptocurrencies, saying "the relatively nascent underlying cash markets and exchanges for bitcoin remain largely unregulated markets over which the CFTC has limited statutory authority."

He concluded with a warning for investors, saying, they should "be aware of the potentially high level of volatility and risk in these markets."

In his Dec. 11 comments, Clayton stated that the SEC would examine any asset impacts to the U.S. securities market, including cryptocurrencies if they fit the profile for securities.

Image by Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk

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