CFTC chair asks senators for more authority in crypto markets

Quick Take

  • The leader of the CFTC testified in support of legislation to grant his agency more authority over crypto markets. 
  • The CFTC chair also asked for a substantial funding boost in order to do so. 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Rostin Behnam told senators Thursday that legislation before the Senate Agriculture Committee would give his agency more insight into how cryptocurrency markets function. 

“We don’t have that market regulatory structure that provides that transparency and lens into how the markets are operating,” Behnam testified. Behnam appeared during a legislative hearing about a bill aimed at granting the CFTC, which currently regulates crypto futures and options markets, more direct authority over cryptocurrencies. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Behnam how much additional money the regulatory agency would need to more closely regulate digital assets. 

Behnam said his staff had come up with figure of “$112 million over the first three years,” a major increase from the commission's current annual budget of $320 million. 

Durbin, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, sounded skeptical. “I honestly believe you’re lowballing it,” he responded. 

There have been some differences of opinion between Behnam and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler, the current primary regulator for digital assets, as to whether the CFTC should have more power in the nascent market. Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee at the same time as Behnam's own Senate appearance, Gensler said, “If we end up that there’s multiple federal agencies defining what a security is, and another agency tries to define it, it could undermine what we’re doing,” and that he saw it as important to have, "one cop on the beat," when it comes to securities regulation. 

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) asked Behnam about a potential divide between digital assets “regulated under different regimes” that trade side-by-side on the same platforms.

“The trading platform would be regulated by both the SEC and the CFTC,” Behnam said, noting that the agencies "have done this before, we have dual registrants from investment advisors.”  

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