Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed interim U.S. Senator from Georgia last month, has joined the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The problem is, up until her Senate appointment, she was the CEO of bitcoin futures trading platform Bakkt, owned by the Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, and the CFTC is one of the ICE’s main federal regulators.
Additionally, her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the founder and CEO of ICE. He owns 1% of the company, which is worth about $600 million.
Her Senate appointment has widely been seen as great news for the cryptocurrency industry, which now has a knowledgeable and badly needed friend in the Senate. But, her oversight of the CFTC brings up concerns of a potential conflict of interest.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Loeffler said she has worked hard to comply with the spirit of the Senate’s ethics rules. However, she also said, “I will recuse myself if needed on a case by case basis.”
That’s not good enough for Gregory Gelzinis, an analyst at the Center for American Progress, a public policy research organization. He believes she should clarify her position, and reassure the public as to how she plans to handle this—sooner, rather than later.
“It’s particularly important for her to either say that she’ll be recusing herself from that piece of the ag committee’s jurisdiction or providing some sort of clear commitment to the public that this isn’t going to get in the way of her conducting official business,” he told the Journal.
The Agriculture Committee oversees the CFTC, which regulates markets for derivatives that trade on ICE exchanges. ICE is huge, second in size only to the CME Group, and it owns the New York Stock Exchange.
Loeffler’s involvement with ICE stretches back 15 years. After joining in 2002, she ran the behemoth’s investor relations and later became CMO before taking the helm at Bakkt. She married Sprecher in 2004.
The CFTC believes that bitcoin is a commodity and falls under its jurisdiction. Last year, CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert said that he also believes that ether, the second most popular cryptocurrency, also falls under his agency’s jurisdiction.
Loeffler was appointed to the Senate by Georgia’s Republican Governor, Brian Kemp, to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned for health reasons. She was sworn in Monday.