This afternoon, former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman Gary Gensler is slated to deliver a speech at MIT's Business of Blockchain Conference. In remarks entitled "A Global View: Regulations for the Crypto Economy," Gensler is expected to share his perspective on the regulatory classification of digital assets Ether and Ripple (XRP). He is one of the most prominent figures to jump into the regulatory debate about the popular digital tokens.
"There is a strong case for both of them [Ether and Ripple] — but particularly Ripple — that they are noncompliant securities," he said in an interview published yesterday by the New York Times.
Although Ripple Labs has vehemently denied that XRP deserves securities classification, the drumbeat of regulation seems to be getting louder. With the XRP market cap hovering around $34 billion (not counting the 55 billion XRP reserve maintained by Ripple Labs), the security scrutiny is understandable, especially given the centralization of its issuance and development. As if Ripple wasn't having a hard enough time getting listed on US-based cryptocurrency exchanges, a securities classification could be a death knell for the digital oddity XRP. Still, as has been demonstrated by bitcoin, the international market could shake off any guidance or actions by US authorities.
By comparison, classification of Ethereum – and its accompanying Ether tokens – does not seem so cut and dry. This appears to be because of its proof-of-work issuance model and somewhat dispersed development community, which are similar to those of Bitcoin.
Altogether, Gensler seems to have maintained the impartiality of his regulatory days, and he reportedly possesses no cryptocurrency investments. He projected a future for blockchain technology, even if that future remains unclear.
"I would be surprised if 10 years from now this isn't somewhere in the financial system in a meaningful way," the former CFTC boss said. "But so much of the stuff that is being promoted now will not be around."
Later this week, Gensler will also speak on a panel at "The Future of Work: Capital Markets, Digital Assets, and The Disruption of Labor" in New York, where he will appear alongside Nasdaq president and CEO Adena Friedman and Bank of America chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan. Readers may remember that Nasdaq was one of the firms to pioneer cryptocurrency derivatives products, and in February, Bank of America cited concerns about cryptocurrencies in its 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Last month, the SEC gave notice that exchange platforms supporting security tokens must register with the agency or seek exemption. Most recently, the agency brought charges against an additional defendant involved in the fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO) scheme conducted by Centra Tech Inc.