SEC Chair: Agency ‘Actively Exploring’ Blockchain Regulation

Michael del Castillo
Apr 1, 2016 at 18:03 UTC
Updated Apr 1, 2016 at 22:31 UTC
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The chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last night spoke out publicly on the Federal regulatory agency’s current and future plans for potential blockchain controls.

Amid a recap of the SEC’s past and future dealings with the blockchain, Chairwoman Mary Jo White specifically called out companies or individuals that seek to use new technology like blockchain to facilitate the transfer of securities.

White said in her published remarks:

“One key regulatory issue is whether blockchain applications require registration under existing Commission regulatory regimes, such as those for transfer agents or clearing agencies.  We are actively exploring these issues and their implications.”

This was the first public word out of the SEC on the potential future of blockchains since December. On 16th December of last year the SEC approved Overstock.com’s plans for its subsidiary TØ to issue securities on bitcoin’s blockchain.

Days later, on 22nd December, SEC secretary Brent Fields published its advanced notice of proposed regulations on transfer agents and asked for public comment on the use of blockchain technology within federal securities regulations. According to the transcript from last night’s speech, those comments will be evaluated to help in the regulatory process.

Blockchain’s bigger picture

White’s remarks on the blockchain came at the end of a speech focused on the topic of protecting investors in a rapidly changing financial marketplace.

She addressed potential concerns related to the new ways in which startups can approach raising capital prior to going public, as well as new legislative provisions that, in part, were designed to let companies award equity as part of crowdfunding initiatives.

Included in her comments on the potential impact of blockchain on the securities industry, White also addressed other “challenges of FinTech”, including robo-advisors — or machine-powered investment advisors — and marketplace lending, the practice of using software to directly connect borrowers with non-bank lenders.

The event at which White spoke, “The Silicon Valley Initiative: Protecting Investments in Pre-IPO Issuers,” was hosted by Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office in an attempt to engage in a dialog with Silicon Valley academics, entrepreneurs, executives, and others.

In her speech, White remarked that new financial technologies “have the potential to transform how our markets operate in virtually every respect”, going on to argue:

“These innovations compel us to think carefully about how best to protect investors so they – and we – can have confidence in this growing and changing landscape.”

Image via Wikimedia