CFTC’s Berkovitz to Become Top Lawyer at SEC

He will join former colleague Gary Gensler as the SEC’s general counsel in November.

Sep 28, 2021 at 4:08 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2021 at 8:52 p.m. UTC

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has tapped Dan Berkovitz, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission commissioner who voiced his concerns about regulation of decentralized finance (DeFi), as the SEC’s new top lawyer.

Berkovitz will become general counsel on Nov. 15, replacing acting General Counsel John Coates, according to a press release. Berkovitz had previously announced his intention to leave the derivatives market regulator as of Oct. 1.

The move places Berkovitz, who recently warned that many DeFi derivatives may violate federal law, in a key court-facing role at one of the U.S.’s top investment regulators. The Office of the General Counsel manages much of the SEC’s litigation and makes recommendations on enforcement actions, rule making and inter-agency activity.

That broad mandate could clash with crypto in any number of ways. The SEC’s top brass has adopted a hardline tone against bad actors in the crypto space, and Chair Gary Gensler has repeatedly emphasized consumer protection, prompting calls of overreach by many participants in the crypto space.

Berkovitz voiced a similar, pro-oversight tone toward crypto while at the CFTC:

“Blockchains, smart contracts, and other new technologies have the potential to improve the transparency and efficiency of our derivatives markets. However, for innovation to be responsible and competition to be fair, it must comply with the [Commodity Exchange Act] and our regulations,” he said when the CFTC fined BitMEX $100 million.

Gensler previously worked with Berkovitz during Gensler’s Obama-era tenure as the head of the CFTC.

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