One SEC commissioner is establishing herself as the voice of innovation for the crypto market

MarketWatch | Aaron Hankin | Aug 27, 2018

SEC and bitcoin ETF - One SEC commissioner is establishing herself as the voice of innovation for the crypto marketSEC’s Hester Peirce, who dissented on Winklevoss denial, shares her thoughts on regulating the evolving cryptocurrency industry

In her seven months in office, Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce has established herself as the voice of innovation for the cryptocurrency market.

In July, Peirce surprisingly dissented from the SEC’s decision to deny Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss an application for a bitcoin-backed exchange-traded fund.

Citing a risk of being left behind, Peirce said the decision sends a “strong signal that innovation is unwelcome in our markets.”

A lawyer by trade, Peirce earned her J.D. from Yale University, graduating in 1997. Prior to assuming her position at the SEC, Peirce was a research fellow and the director of the Financial Markets Working Group at George Mason University.

In an edited interview with MarketWatch, Peirce spoke on her time to date at the SEC. She shed some light on where the cryptocurrency industry might be headed and the tough job regulators have in presiding over the ever-changing industry.

See:  Crypto prices sharply down after SEC postpones Bitcoin ETF decision

On her dissent in the Winklevoss ETF decision

The issue I had in the dissent was that I think we applied our standard of review incorrectly to look below the market that’s actually trading the product... as opposed to the plan that the market that actually wants to lift the product has, or trading the product.

The concern that I have is that we need to make sure that we’re not taking the position that a market—whatever the underlying asset is—that the market has to be perfectly mature and perfectly regulated and perfectly within our control before we’re willing to sign off on an exchange-traded product that’s based on that asset.

On balancing innovation with regulation

The concern that I came to the Commission with ...is that generally, we’re not great with respect to innovation as an agency.

It’s not surprising to me because regulators tend to get blamed when something goes wrong, say if we approve something and it goes wrong, people come back and say well, you shouldn’t have approved it. If things go great, no one comes to us and pats us on the back and says, oh great job, glad you approved that.

‘And you can never measure the loss to investors and to the economy of us not approving things, so it’s really a lot easier for regulators to say no, no, no. And so when I came to the commission that was one of the concerns that I had’

Hester Peirce, SEC Commissioner

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When asked if the SEC behind the curve

I mean I do think we’re behind the curve, but I think almost everyone is behind the curve... things change so fast. So I think that we have work to do. But I think we have some really good people here as well.

But yeah, I mean I’m certainly worried. I’m certainly worried every time I hear someone say the U.S. is too slow and I’m going to go overseas to do my innovation, that’s always a bad thing to hear... I think investors are losing out, and I think the economy as a whole is losing out when we lose innovative efforts to other places solely because of our regulatory environment, that’s never a thing I want to hear.

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