With the ink still drying on its Binance action, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Rostin Behnam reiterated Tuesday that he believes ether is a commodity – a potentially controversial assertion that seems to counter what his counterpart at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has contended.
In the high-stakes CFTC action against Binance, his agency claimed that several tokens – bitcoin, ether, litecoin and the stablecoins tether and BUSD – are commodities that Binance was illegally trading. A lawmaker in the House Appropriations Committee asked him in a budget hearing Tuesday whether he personally believed ether should be on that list.
“I believe they are a commodity,” Behnam said. “And because they are listed on CFTC exchanges, we do have a regulatory relationship – obviously with the derivatives market and that product, but the underlying market as well.”
Behnam said that belief is driving the case against Binance, and against other institutions trading bitcoin and ether – suggesting such trading at other platforms may eventually face regulatory scrutiny, as well.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler has alternatively argued that proof-of-stake tokens – which would include ether since its switch last year – are probably securities that should be registered and regulated by his agency. But Gensler hasn’t yet set that in stone with enforcement actions or court wins.
Though crypto insiders had previously made clear they’d viewed Behman and his CFTC as friendlier than the SEC and its chairman, the CFTC has authored a number of enforcement actions against crypto companies since then. The Binance case – targeting the largest crypto platform in the world – could have even wider implications.
He was asked by lawmakers Tuesday whether he still hoped to allow space for crypto innovation in the U.S., as he’s stated before.
“It should be absolutely a concern,” he said. “Europe has put in place a pretty comprehensive regime that’s going to be implemented over the next couple of years,” he said, adding that the U.S. needs to “move the ball forward.”
“We don’t want to rush,” he said, saying the effort should be “cautious and deliberate.”
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