back to article US SEC chair calls for crypto regulation

US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Gary Gensler has described cryptocurrency as "rife with fraud, scams, and abuse in certain applications" and called for more government regulation to protect investors in the assets. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual three-day conference in Aspen, Colorado, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Probably Long Overdue

    With China also clamping down, it's looking like the days of crypto currencies are numbered. As a replacement for state-controlled currencies they're a miserable failure. In fact the interest in them has exploded only because people see them as a way of potentially making more dollars / pounds / yuan / shillings, which kinda reinforces the perceived value of a state-backed currency. And they only became a vehicle for that because exchanges got set up making the conversion possible in the first place; we've never really been able to conduct trade using crypto currency.

    Framed that way, crypto-currency speculation is entirely parasitic; you make a profit on a cryptocurrency because someone else has made a loss, not because you or (more importantly) anyone else has done any actual beneficial work. Other than to pay an electricity bill, or stolen someone else's, neither of which is beneficial; it's a waste of energy.

    p.s. never bought or mined any myself.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Probably Long Overdue

      you make a profit on a cryptocurrency because someone else has made a loss

      Not quite: it's more that someone else will make a loss. Profit happens now where more people want to buy than sell so the price goes up and the total value of the currency grows. The people in the future left holding the currency when more people want to sell then buy will be the losers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        "Not quite: it's more that someone else will make a loss."

        *This*.

        *All* the suckers think they've made a profit, but such a thing is impossible without sucking in ever greater sucker money.

        The smarter ones will be tracking the exchanges (or have an inside on dark exchanges) and know they need to bail before the rest, but even they overestimate their ability to beat the crowds in a flash sale.

        Once a flash sale happens the buyers disappear, and perhaps were never really there, simply market manipulators pumping up buying demand with fake buy orders. The con money has already moved onto the next token.

        I'm kinda surprised China allows that CNY/Crypto exchange to continue, after researching it, it screamed "wackadoodlestan front company" to me.

      2. HildyJ Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        You and the Anonymous Coward are right, to an extent, with a caveat.

        All currencies are only worth what people will pay for them. All currencies are speculative. My dollars are not worth the same in pounds today as they were yesterday or will be tomorrow. While they might be backed by the "full faith and credit" of the government, they can't be exchanged by the government for any real asset.

        Cryptocurrencies are significantly more speculative than first world currencies but third world currencies can also suffer extreme volatility and can become worthless.

        Cryptocurrencies are also more susceptible to outright fraud and, beyond fraud, they can be created on a whim like Dogecoin.

        All that said, in the multinational economy, cryptocurrencies will probably persist. What that will mean for the value of any given 'coin' remains to be seen.

        As for me, I have about 1% of my funds in a mix of crypto as a speculative investment. I do it through a US Trust that trades on an Over The Counter markets.

    2. JulieM

      Re: Probably Long Overdue

      Agreed. Cryptocurrency is based on a fundamental error: that proof of labour is necessarily equivalent to proof of value.

      What a cryptocurrency token essentially is, is film footage of you setting fire to a pile of money.

      And the only people who are not going to lose out when, not if, the whole lot goes Tango Uniform, are the ones selling matches.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        Cryptocurrency is based on a fundamental error: that proof of labour is necessarily equivalent to proof of value.

        Are you sure? Because many see the disconnect between labour and value as a fundamental problem with our economy. People work their bottoms off and barely can get ends meet and then you have fat shareholders spending days by the pool counting dividends flowing into their accounts.

        The elites problem with cryptocurrency is that they cannot access this wealth without putting up work and they can't stand the fact that some of the "pleb" could get rich on equal terms.

        1. JulieM

          Re: Probably Long Overdue

          It works like this:

          Mark meets Alice, looking somewhat glum.

          Alice: "I asked my landlord, Bob, to repaint one of my rooms. Bob's abroad, so he promised to pay me £100 if I bought the paint and did the job myself, and sent him the receipt for the paint and this photograph of the completed job with the empty paint tins in shot as proof. But he won't be home with the money till next Thursday, and I'm left short until then."

          Mark: "I'll give you £25 for that picture and receipt!"

          Alice: "No way! I'm not that desperate. £75?"

          Mark: "£50, and that's my final offer."

          Alice: "Done!"

          (Next Thursday)

          Mark: "Hey, Bob! You know that ton you promised Alice if she painted her room herself? Well, I've got the receipt for the paint and a picture of the work here. She's made quite a good job of it, too!"

          Bob: "Who the f**k is Alice?"

          1. vtcodger Silver badge

            Re: Probably Long Overdue

            "It works like this:..."

            By far the best condensation of the myriad problems associated with cryptomania I've encountered. Upvoted accordingly.

            It's not that immutable, distributed, publically accessible ledgers might not be a solution to some problem(s). Although I can't actually think of such a problem. It's that exchange of value is already handled better and far more simply by existing mechanisms.

          2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Probably Long Overdue

            Not sure how is that relevant, but I can see that your are stuck in a one page loop with your novel.

        2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Probably Long Overdue

          There is no wealth or wealth generation in dunning-krugerrands; it's simply moving actual money around.

        3. Naselus

          Re: Probably Long Overdue

          "Because many see the disconnect between labour and value as a fundamental problem with our economy."

          You can believe that the disconnect between labour and value is a problem without automatically having to believe that all labour necessarily has value. Breaking large rocks into small rocks with a teaspoon requires a lot more labour than doing it with a sledgehammer. This does not mean that teaspoon-broken small rocks have more value to a small-rock buyer than sledgehammer-broken ones.

          Ultimately, you're arguing an economic tautology - 'why did you spend so much effort making this? Because it has value. But why does it have value? Because I spent so much effort making it...."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        And they believe that wasting energy in pointless operations is labour, too.

        I really like your description of a token...

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Probably Long Overdue

          The labour is to validate a block of transactions, a fundamental thing for many blockchains. If you think having validated transaction block in a blockchain is pointless... okay.

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: Probably Long Overdue

            Except that labour cost isn't a function of the utility of the blockchain; it's purely a function of the price of the token. For example, bitcoin's labour effort (measured in hashrate) has increased by a factor of 10^15 since the first block 12.6 years ago, but its utility (in terms of the number of transactions it can process) hasn't increased significantly.

      3. bridgebuilder
        Flame

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        >What a cryptocurrency token essentially is, is film footage of you setting fire to a pile of money.

        In other words: It is an NFT representing the film footage.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Probably Long Overdue

        Cryptocurrency is based on a fundamental error: that proof of labour is necessarily equivalent to proof of value.

        Proof-of-work is not a necessary feature of cryptocurrencies. (Nor is a public, distributed ledger, which another commentator mentioned.)

        I'm not a fan of cryptocurrencies, but if we're going to critique them in the abstract, we ought to define them properly.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Go Gary !

    "a 'Wild West' of speculation and naughtiness "

    Sounds like the proverbial nail got hit right on the head.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Go Gary !

      Really it's more like the wildcat-banking era than the Wild West. The Wild West wasn't all that wild, economically.

  3. Draco
    Big Brother

    He doesn't go far enough

    >> What I'm not neutral about: Investor protection.

    Is he as keen on protecting those who invest in other things? Some examples of which are:

    - trading cards

    - stamps

    - comic books

    - antique furniture

    - cars

    - art

    - jewelry

    - vintage toys

    - books

    - spoons

    - etc

    If he's truly serious, he will insist that anything that may possess value and can be exchanged or traded should be under the benevolent watch, scrutiny, and regulation of the SEC.

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: He doesn't go far enough

      Agreed. Art is a fine example of something that (mostly) doesn't have any intrinsic value and trades on either perceived value or investment potential (or the Greater Fool approach, depending on which way you want to look at it).

      I'm happy enough to pay money for artwork that I would like to see in my loungeroom, but I don't really need the art market regulated to protect me, apart from the usual commercial misrepresentation/fraud protections of course.

      So, what is it about cryptocurrencies that require regulation, above all the other things that Draco lists? Or tulip bulbs perhaps?

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: He doesn't go far enough

      None of them are "securities" - so they are not regulated by the SEC. Cryptocurrencies may be regarded as such, instead, as they aim to be as current securities and traded as such.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: He doesn't go far enough

        Anything can be a currency.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: He doesn't go far enough

          Sure, but people are not willingly usually to exchange anvils or paintings.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: He doesn't go far enough

            Millionaires and billionaires do that all the time. They have so much money it is boring, so they name the price in items they want. Also the poor with no access to money.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: He doesn't go far enough

              The problem with barter that lead to the creations of coins and thereby currency was that it was cumbersome to use, and even items of the same kind may not have the same real value. There is a reason money was created thousands of years ago.

              Rich people may trade paintings, but even them too don't use them as a currency. It could be some kind of investment, but not all investment are securities. Even real estates are not securities.

              Sure, you could pay a house with a Van Gogh, but it does not make it a currency, so there's really no need to regulate that. After all, while you can't usually not accept a currency for a transaction, you are free to refuse to be paid in a different way.

          2. bridgebuilder

            Re: He doesn't go far enough

            >Sure, but people are not willingly usually to exchange anvils or paintings.

            Well, they might exchange anvils by sending them on airborne trajectories towards each other in order to settle an argument.

            Less common with paintings but I am sure it happens.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: He doesn't go far enough

          Anything can be a currency.

          A sophomorism. Currencies are distinguished in part by their use of fungible tokens. Works of art and other collectables are by definition not fungible; that's what makes them collectable.

          Bitcoins are securities. Equity-backed stablecoins (which, from the article, it apepars Gensler referred to specifically) are securities. NFTs are not. Paintings and trading cards are not.

  4. Kane Silver badge
    Joke

    ...rife with fraud, scams, and abuse in certain applications...

    So, like cash then?

    Or, if you're so inclined...

    So, like HSBC then?

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Dollar

    When some countries decided to ditch the US dollar as a currency for trading oil, the US almost lost consciousness out of anger.

    They invaded a country here, started a coup there, assassinated this and that.

    But now that the drug cartels are moving away from US dollar, the US is shaking and having hallucinations.

    There is no country to invade and the trade is completely decentralised with no single point of failure it's essentially a whack-a-mole.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Good news everybody

    This means that if bitcoin drops in value the US treasury will rush in with a bailout to protect institutional 'investors' - it's just as real as any other dodgy financial instrument

  7. Tron Bronze badge

    Hmm.

    -rife with fraud, scams, and abuse.

    Sounds like the day to day life of the average exchange listed corporate.

    The US and EU will regulate crypto because it crosses borders and allows ordinary people to 'print money', which they want to retain a monopoly upon.

    The reality is that crypto is not such a wild west - note the recent recoveries of large amounts of crypto by law enforcement in the UK and US.

    Crypto profits are already baked into the tax system. Forget to pay those taxes and you will get a knock on the door and be asked to justify your assets. The idea of 'innocent until proven guilty' was cast aside some time ago.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Hmm.

      Also the "traditional" banking had the same problems during inception period. This is nothing new...

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Hmm.

        Gensler didn't claim it was new – quite the opposite, in fact. Try reading for comprehension.

  8. sreynolds

    They're doing such a fine job thus far

    Yeah the SEC is doing a stellar job of detecting fraud, nailing those insider traders, and coming down so hard on the market manipulators that they can now start looking at crypto currencies.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: They're doing such a fine job thus far

      So, be perfect or do nothing? That's a fine plan.

  9. J27 Silver badge

    Well, it starts. If regulation fails, then they'll just ban cryptocurrency. Governments need to be able to control their currencies to control their economies. Bitcoin has no army, which makes it pretty weak as a currency, so it will fall in line or be destroyed.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021