CFTC Would Become Primary Crypto Regulator Under New Senate Committee Plan

The bill would create a definition of "digital commodity."

AccessTimeIconAug 3, 2022 at 1:11 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:09 p.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global hub for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

The Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would grant the CFTC "exclusive jurisdiction" over cryptocurrency trades that meet commodities law.

The Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act of 2022, sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), would create a definition of "digital commodity" that would include cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether but not anything that may be a security, giving the CFTC the ability to oversee both digital commodity transactions and force registration of digital commodity platforms, according to a section-by-section breakdown of the bill.

The crypto industry has been pushing for either a federal agency or Congress to create a clear definition of “digital commodity” or a digital security, which could give companies greater clarity on when and how they must register with the CFTC or the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bill doesn't provide that definition. The CFTC would have some ability to define digital commodities, and the bill appears to still defer to the SEC on what a security is.

Much of the bill is dedicated to detailing how digital commodity brokers would be treated similarly to their traditional finance counterparts.

At present, most crypto exchanges are regulated at the state level, with no clear federal guidelines for registration or oversight. The SEC has indicated that crypto exchanges listing digital securities should be treated as national securities exchanges.

The SEC, however, has moved slowly, and there is no formal rule-making in progress that would establish a registration requirement.

In the meantime, CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam has waged a campaign to have his agency become the primary spot market regulator for the cryptocurrency markets, though Wednesday’s bill doesn't go that far.

Still, Behnam appears to have some lawmaker support on this front. Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, asked Chris Brummer, a professor at Georgetown Law, in June whether the CFTC should “have direct statutory authority to regulate cash markets.”

House Agriculture Committee Republicans have introduced the Digital Commodity Exchange Act, which would also grant the CFTC greater jurisdiction over crypto spot markets, though that too wouldn't grant it exclusive oversight.

The Senate committee, which introduced the latest bill, called for the CFTC to provide more guidance on digital assets earlier this year.

The committee held a hearing on the issue in February that included Behnam, as well as industry experts such as Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the FTX crypto exchange; Perianne Boring, a crypto industry lobbyist; Sandra Ro, CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council; and Kevin Werbach, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

Coin Center, an industry think tank, published a blog post supporting the bill, saying it would give the CFTC the authority to oversee spot markets rather than have the SEC oversee non-securities exchanges.

However, Peter Van Valkenburgh, director of research at Coin Center, cautioned that the current definition of “dealer” may be overly broad in the bill’s text.

UPDATE (Aug. 3, 2022, 15:30 UTC): Adds additional detail.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

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; 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.

Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.