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SEC’s “Crypto Mom” demands innovation, says you can’t prosecute an algorithm

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce spoke at the CFC 2021 virtual blockchain conference on Jan. 20, where she discussed the prospect of working with a new Biden-appointed chairman, and touched on her hopes of providing the cryptocurrency space with some “safe harbor”.

Known affectionately by cryptocurrency enthusiasts as “Crypto Mom”, Peirce addressed the changeover at the SEC that saw former chairman Jay Clayton depart his post in December. Incoming President Joe Biden has since nominated Gary Gensler for the role. 

Peirce stated that Gensler’s appointment was not yet set in stone, but that the appointment of any new chairman brings an opportunity to approach things with a new set of eyes:

“There have been quite a few changes in the last year, and so I think a change in leadership is a good opportunity to take a look at those changes, including institutionalization. We’ve obviously seen the price of Bitcoin rise quite a bit; we’ve seen a lot of activity in the DeFi space, and I think all of these things will provide a nice framework against which a new chairman can take a fresh look at questions across the board in the crypto space.” 

As reported by Cointelegraph, the SEC commissioner touched on the perennial “Sword of Damocles” that’s been hanging over the cryptocurrency space since its inception: Namely, regulation. But the goal of regulation should be to provide clarity, according to Peirce, adding that she hoped the new chairman would make sure the U.S was still conducive to innovation.

“We really need to embrace innovation, and figure out how we can set up a regulatory environment that’s conducive to innovation, which I think in our space means providing clarity. And so I think that’s something the new chairman will be faced with from day one,” said Peirce.

“If you can’t prove that your token is functional from day one, or that your network is decentralized, you may very well run into a situation where, under the securities laws, it’s treated as a securities offering,” said the commissioner.

But if Peirce’s proposal to apply Safe Harbor status to crypto launches gains traction at the SEC, it would grant projects an initial 3-year window during which regulatory liability would be ramped up gradually for the purpose of fostering innovation. Peirce stated:

“And in that intervening 3 years, you would comply with disclosure orders which would supply those purchasers of tokens some information about you, the development team, and about the token economy. And it would also make sure that the anti-fraud provisions of our securities apply so that you couldn’t lie about those things.”

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