Hester Peirce: A Gensler-led SEC could lead to a 'very productive few years' for crypto

Hester Peirce, a commissioner for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said she's looking forward to a Gary Gensler-led commission.

In a keynote conversation at an Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum conference on Thursday, Peirce -- widely viewed as crypto-friendly by the industry given her past statements and interest in crypto-specific policy moves -- said it could be "a very productive few years" with Gensler at the agency's helm.

Gensler, now head of the Commission after his nomination from the Biden Administration was confirmed by Congress, took a hard line for investor protection when he led the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). His tenure there coincided with the institution of the Dodd-Frank Act, leading to considerable enforcement efforts after the financial crisis during the late 2000s.

Though Gensler is known to be better-versed in crypto than other regulators, having taught a course on blockchain at MIT in between his time in Washington, his watchdog attitude towards consumer protection leaves questions surrounding his impending treatment of crypto. Peirce, for her part, said she thinks these two factors could create a productive few years for the SEC in which the agency finally solidifies regulation for crypto.

"I expect that he'll take investor and investor protection seriously as far as any SEC chairman would," said Peirce. "But I think he also appreciates the value that a good, well-articulated regulatory framework can have. And so I'm looking forward to working with him on that."

A new chairman means a fresh look at old conversations, according to Peirce. In particular, she referenced the ongoing quest for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) approval in the U.S. Recent Canadian approvals and additional data from the bitcoin futures market suggest more maturity in the crypto market, which according to Peirce is important to approval.

Still, the SEC did extend its review of the VanEck/Cboe proposal last week. The SEC will have to approve or deny the application sometime this year, as well other pending applications. These developments have led some market observers to speculate that approval could come before the end of 2021, but Peirce was more measured.

"I can't hazard a guess in terms of the timing," she said. "Some days I say 10 years from now, some days I say maybe it could happen this year, I don't know."