US CFTC Commissioner Cites Latest Crypto Sanction in Call for New Rules

Commissioner Kristin Johnson is pushing for her agency to work on policies to further tighten custody of customer assets as the CFTC sanctions another crypto Ponzi scheme.

AccessTimeIconDec 1, 2022 at 9:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 1, 2022 at 10:03 p.m. UTC
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As the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission awaits legislation to establish its place in crypto oversight, Commissioner Kristin Johnson says the agency should start using its existing powers to strengthen requirements for keeping customers’ assets safe.

The CFTC should tap “existing authority to further mitigate potential risks to all customer assets,” Johnson said in a statement on Thursday, citing the cryptocurrency industry drama ignited by the detonation of the FTX exchange. She labeled her statement a “call to action” against digital-assets fraud.

“Liquidity crises and a lack of responsible governance at cryptocurrency exchanges and other prominent crypto-intermediaries have roiled the digital asset ecosystem,” Johnson said. “A series of bankruptcy filings reveals a grim portrait of some of the most egregious corporate governance and risk management failures in recent financial markets history.”

Johnson made the statement as the CFTC sanctioned another crypto industry player: Jeremy Spence, who as “Coin Signals” was convicted of defrauding investors for $5 million and was imprisoned earlier this year on a 42-month sentence.

Still, any agency rule-making will only extend to the firms currently regulated or that are seeking to register. That’s part of the problem that’s been repeatedly underlined by agency leaders, including Chair Rostin Behnam in testimony in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He explained that his agency is hamstrung by limitations that only let it reach FTX’s derivatives-trading arm, the affiliate formerly known as LedgerX.

Specifically, crypto spot markets currently lack any federal regulatory oversight. The CFTC’s jurisdiction ends at derivatives platforms and potential fraud within the underlying commodities markets.

While Behnam told lawmakers he couldn’t comment on any potential enforcement actions against FTX, he also said that “enforcement cases take time, but we’re moving expeditiously.” He also described his enforcement team as “laser-focused on this right now.”

In her statement, Johnson also predicted a wave of mergers and acquisitions in crypto.

“As we unravel the tangled web of interconnected financial transactions and relationships among cryptocurrency trading platforms facing liquidity crises, we should anticipate a season of mergers, acquisitions and consolidation,” she said.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.

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