Rostin Behnam said Wednesday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission won't be weak on crypto — and added that anyone who thinks otherwise is confused.
"We are one of the toughest cops on the beat," Behnam, chairman of the CFTC, said at an event hosted by the Washington Post. "We have a strong enforcement program, and we are very, very strong in terms of our market oversight and surveillance."
Behnam defended the agency against the notion that the Securities and Exchange Commission would be tougher in overseeing cryptocurrencies and pushed back on the view that the emphasis on CFTC regulation in the major new bill in Congress amounts to a win for the industry.
"It's just a misunderstanding of the securities laws and the commodities laws," Behnam said, saying that the kinds of regular disclosures that securities issuers make through the SEC aren't useful for many cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis, the bipartisan duo behind the bill, also rejected the idea that their approach sidelines the SEC.
"The majority of the digital assets ... have characteristics of securities that will require the SEC's disclosure capabilities," Lummis said at the event. The agency "has most of the small tokens that are going to be the larger perpetrators of fraud, so the SEC's role in this is absolutely critical."
She also cheered SEC Chair Gary Gensler's recent statement that many cryptocurrencies are securities but bitcoin may not be.
"I agree with him," Lummis said. She added that she'd spoken with Gensler on Tuesday, when the proposal was released, but said he hadn't read it yet at the time.
Gillibrand also said SEC staff had given "a lot of verbal feedback" on the draft, but had declined to give written thoughts. She said she hoped the bill "could move forward, maybe even by the end of the year."