The Sea Change on Crypto-Regulation

In the last few weeks there has been a sea change in crypto regulation:

1. Bitcoin spot ETFs were approved–reluctantly, after a 3-judge Federal Appeals court ruled unanimously that the SEC had acted arbitrarily and capriciously–but nevertheless opening Bitcoin holdings to institutional investors. Case in point, The State of Wisconsin bought Bitcoin ETFs for its pension fund.

2. In a very unusual move, SAB 121, was overturned by the House and then, even more surprisingly, overturned by the Senate including the votes of many Democrats. < href=”″>SAB 121 is an SEC staff accounting bulletin (not law but guidance) that said to banks if you hold crypto for your customers, i.e. a custody service, you must account for it on your balance sheet. This guidance does not apply to custody of any other asset. Essentially, SAB 121 made it prohibitive for banks to offer custody services for crypto because that service would then impact all kinds of risk and asset regulations on the bank. Aside from singling out crypto, the SEC is not a regulator of banks so this seemed like a regulatory overreach.

President Biden said he will veto but that is no longer certain. It wasn’t just crypto lobbying against SAB 121 but traditional banks. The banks point to the approval of Bitcoin ETFs saying, quite logically, why can’t we custody these ETFs the way we do every other ETF? Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sometimes called Wall Street’s man in Washington, voted in favor of nullifying SAB 121. Schumer can read the room.

3. The House voted to ban the Fed from establishing a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

4. The House approved a wide-ranging bill to (finally!) establish regulations for digital assets markets. The vote was 279-136 in favor with many Democrats crossing party lines to support it.

5. After saying nothing for months, usually a bad sign, the SEC approved Ethereum spot ETFs. On the surface, this might have seemed logically inevitable given the approval of Bitcoin spot ETFs but many people thought the SEC would do everything it could to find daylight between Bitcoin and ETH. Instead, it tacitly acknowledged that ETH is a commodity and not a security.

Why is this happening? I see three main factors at play. First, crypto is becoming integrated with traditional finance. As the big banks get involved, the politics around crypto are shifting. Second, crypto is becoming normalized. Ironically, the prosecution of Sam Bankman-Fried, Changpeng Zhao and manipulators like Avraham Eisenberg may have convinced some U.S. regulators that crypto doesn’t have to be destroyed, it can be tamed. Nakamoto might not be pleased but realistically this was the only option to move forward. Eventually, everyone wants to pay their mortgage. Third, Trump’s strong endorsement of crypto has alarmed the Biden administration. Most political issues are firmly divided along party lines, but crypto remains an open issue. With millions of crypto owners in the United States, a significant number are highly motivated to vote their wallets. Biden doesn’t want to give the crypto issue to Trump.

None of this means we are entering crypto Nirvana but as far as regulation is concerned a lot has changed in just a matter of weeks.

Full Disclosure: I am an advisor to several firms in the crypto space including MultiversX, Bluechip and 0L.



Add Comment