Gary Gensler to head SEC
Bitcoin,  Regulation,  Ripple

MIT blockchain prof Gary Gensler to head SEC: Report

Citing two sources, Reuters is claiming that the Biden administration intends to appoint the former CFTC commissioner to head the Securities and Exchange Commission

Gary Gensler, a former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and currently a professor teaching digital assets and blockchain at MIT, has been selected to head up the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Reuters.

Citing two anonymous sources, Reuters said President-elect Joe Biden will announce Gensler’s nomination within days.

Gensler headed up the Biden transition team’s efforts to build a securities regulation team, and late last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Gensler was going to be appointed a Biden financial advisor, tasked with developing tough new oversight of investment banks and the markets.

Gensler will be a popular choice in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, having said “the potential for this technology to be a catalyst for change is real,” in a December 2019 Coindesk op-ed

Of course, he also said, “Crypto markets have been rife with scams, fraud, hacks and manipulation.”

Compound general counsel Jake Chervinsky was among those for whom the choice was popular, saying said in a Jan. 12 tweet that “Gary Gensler deeply understands crypto & has strongly supported bitcoin for years.”

Still, an SEC chairman who understands and appreciates the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies would likely be a huge improvement over the recently departed SEC chairman Jay Clayton, who has been a staunch opponent of allowing bitcoin exchange traded funds, often citing rampant market manipulation. 

Chervinsky also pointed out that Gensler’s “selection as SEC chair signals a policy shift in favor of a bitcoin ETF.”

But, Chervinsky suggested that the agency regulator’s “concern isn’t so much market manipulation as it is surveillance-sharing agreements with regulated markets, which has come a long way in the last 12 months.”

Investment management firm VanEck recently launched another ETF push, requesting permission from the SEC on Dec. 30.

What it means to Ripple is another big question. Clayton’s last act—on his last day at the agency—was to file a lawsuit against Ripple, claiming that XRP is an unregistered security that the international payments firm has been illegally selling. 

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has described the lawsuit as an SEC “attack” on the entire cryptocurrency industry. He said the company intends to fight the suit vigorously, and intends to attempt to reopen negotiations with the incoming administration.

However, Chervinsky said Gensler “went on record in 2018 saying there’s ‘a strong case’ that XRP is a security, signaling no shift on that issue.”

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.