Sigh of Relief? Crypto Reacts to US Senate Hearing Remarks

“Bullish.” “A sigh of relief.”

These were just some of the comments that came from industry observers in the wake of a hearing held Tuesday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, one that addressed the question of how lawmakers should consider cryptocurrency regulation.

Widely anticipated due to its positioning amidst what has been one of the biggest industry bubbles, the event saw the heads of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) testify on a range of topics including market oversight, price volatility and the regulatory concerns around initial coin offerings (ICOs).

However, it was perhaps the measured and sophisticated nature of the dialogue that most stood out to observers queried.

Stephen Palley, an attorney for Washington, D.C.-based law firm Anderson Kill, said he was impressed at the level of knowledge displayed by both the committee members as well as the regulators themselves about such a seemingly esoteric topic as cryptocurrency.

Palley told CoinDesk:

“It’s amazing that nine years after the Satoshi white paper, you’ve got senators talking about this shit and not pooh-poohing it.”

Attorney Zoe Dolan struck an optimistic tone in the wake of the hearing as well, taking to Twitter to write that “this hearing has made me so bullish I can hardly stand it.”

“As a lawyer – and a criminal defense lawyer in particular – I was heartened to hear acknowledgment that existing laws suffice to address age-old human conduct,” she later told CoinDesk, adding: “Fraud is fraud.”

Berger Singerman LLP partner Andrew Hinkes also highlighted the admission from both agencies that there is a need for more resources to keep an eye on a rapidly-expanding industry.

“Although this may stoke fear in the community, more resources may lead to better, more thoughtful and more facilitative regulation. Regulation is helpful when it provides useful guidance,” he said.

More clarity needed?

Optimism aside, some market observers said they believe the hearing revealed the need for more clarity on the regulatory front – something that both agency chairs indicated may be necessary in statements that broached possible action from the U.S. Congress.

Reading between the lines of Clayton’s remarks, Carol van Cleef, a veteran Washington banking lawyer, said a key takeaway was the “need for clearer jurisdictional lines.”

And though he made a point of the fact that the SEC is coordinating with the CFTC and Federal Reserve, Clayton “kept talking about the patchwork system,” van Cleef said.

“If he didn’t say it specifically,” she continued, “he [implied] that it isn’t enough for this space.”

The subtext, she said, is that “somebody’s got to take control of this at the federal level.”

This could be problematic for businesses, such as bitcoin exchanges, that have spent the last few years building compliance programs under the framework of money services businesses registered with FinCEN and money transmitters licensed by the states.

“I did not hear enough today recognizing those kinds of efforts,” van Cleef said…

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