Cryptocurrencies should not be viewed as their own asset class and should be evaluated individually, an SEC director says

A Chainalysis panel in New York on November 4, 2021 with Salman Banaei as moderator and Valerie A. Szczepanik, Director of the SEC's Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, Eun Young Choi, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Michele Korver, Chief Digital Currency Advisor as speakers.
Valerie Szczepanik, director of the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, is seated at right during the Chainalysis conference. Isabelle Lee/Insider
  • Cryptocurrencies should not be viewed as their own asset class, said the director of the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology
  • Instead, they should be evaluated individually, Valerie Szczepanik said at the Chainalysis conference in New York Thursday.
  • “I think digital asset is a representation of value, and you have to figure out what that value is,” she said.
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Cryptocurrencies should not be viewed as their own asset class and should be evaluated individually, according to Valerie Szczepanik, director of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology.

“It may be a misnomer to say that digital assets are an asset class,” she said during a conference organized by Chainalysis in New York Thursday. “I think a digital asset is a representation of value, and you have to figure out what that value is.”

And that is where the difficulty lies, as digital assets sometimes represent a commodity, a security, or a derivative, Szczepanik noted.

This is why cryptocurrencies should be evaluated individually, such as how they are bought and sold, she said, adding that her agency is going to regulate activity and not technology.

She also disputed the notion that there is a lack of regulatory clarity when it comes to crypto.

“I think there’s clarity … we just have to figure out what the function is, what the asset is,” Szczepanik said. “The problem is the technology has been very complicated.”

Meanwhile, regulators have sent mixed signals on who should be the top crypto cop.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has been saying many crypto assets should be considered securities, a definition that would place hundreds of coins under the agency’s jurisdiction.

But Rostin Behnam, the acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in October said the CFTC should be the main agency to oversee cryptocurrencies, rather than the SEC.

For its part, Bitcoin is regulated under the Commodity Exchange Act and is considered a commodity. But there are thousands of other coins in the industry, with many meme tokens sprouting up almost every day, that sit in a regulatory gray area.