The crypto lobby’s big test
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Fintech. This Tuesday: the new face of crypto regulation, Binance’s European expansion and Bill Miller vs. Warren Buffett.
Off the chain
There’s a new figure who’s emerged in the fight over crypto regulation: Caroline Pham, a former Citigroup executive who was sworn in as a CFTC commissioner just last month. Already, she’s made a splash, speaking at the D.C. Blockchain Summit and writing an opinion piece on crypto oversight with SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, a frequent dissenting voice within that agency (see today’s Overheard). If, as the industry hopes, the CFTC’s given a lead role in crypto regulation, Pham seems prepared to make it happen. “The CFTC already has a framework that’s ready-made to go right now into the regulated sector for digital assets,” she said at the summit.— Owen Thomas (email | twitter)
The crypto lobby faces a big test
Crypto has been beefing up its presence in Washington, but the payoff hasn’t been clear until last week, when the industry seemed to score a significant win. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a major Senate ally and self-described HODLer, has a bill that promises to do away with some serious roadblocks for the embattled industry, and a leaked draft gave glimmers of long-awaited regulatory clarity.
But the industry is still reeling from a general collapse in prices and a stablecoin crash that wiped out the savings of some and gave new urgency to rein in crypto’s worst excesses. There are many hurdles ahead.
Crypto could get its preferred regulator. A proposed bill backed by Lummis and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand would designate the CFTC as crypto’s lead regulator, according to a draft leaked to The Block.
- That would be a win for the crypto industry, which increasingly sees the SEC as an over-aggressive regulator whose enforcement-first approach “has had a chilling impact on the digital asset ecosystem,” Chamber of Digital Commerce CEO Perianne Boring told Protocol.
- The draft proposal would also amend language in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which crypto lobby groups complained could impose tax reporting requirements on node operators, developers and others involved in maintaining a blockchain.
- Lummis said in a tweet that the version mentioned in the report is “an incredibly outdated version” of the final bill she and Gillibrand plan to unveil June 7. Still, she and the New York Democrat appeared together at the D.C. Blockchain Summit last week and dropped some key hints about the bill, including the CFTC’s leading role.
Crypto is demonstrating its “growing political power,” Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, said in a recent interview.
- Crypto companies are signing up more lobbyists, though some new hires are still getting up to speed. “It takes them a while to figure out what the heck is going on in crypto because it's super complicated,” Smith said.
- Crypto’s story is complicated in part because it’s controversial and risky. The stunning UST crash underscored the harm crypto could cause, including stories of how people lost their life savings and even contemplated suicide because of the stablecoin’s meltdown.
- The larger drawdown in digital assets has put the crypto lobby into a defensive posture. It also emboldened critics, including SEC Chair Gary Gensler. Jake Chervinsky, the Blockchain Association’s combative head of Policy, hit back at “any overzealous regulators” who could “demand a power grab over all of crypto due to [the] UST” crash.
Crypto is navigating choppy waters. The recent setbacks are temporary, crypto’s D.C. reps argue. The industry has been through tough times before. More people are “interested and paying attention” in Washington, Boring said. Crypto is in a strong position to tell a compelling story. Now the question is whether they can use that narrative to rally Congress around Lummis and Gillibrand’s bill.— Benjamin Pimentel (email | twitter)
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On the money
On Protocol: Do Kwon relaunched the Terra blockchain with a new luna coin over the weekend. It didn't go well, though a listing on Binance's exchange helped boost its sagging price.
Binance won regulatory approval in Italy. The crypto exchange giant is now registered as a virtual asset service provider with the Organismo Agenti e Mediatori, continuing its European expansion weeks after its win in France.
The SEC rejected One River’s bitcoin ETF proposal. The proposal for the One River Carbon Neutral Bitcoin Trust, a fund that sought to incorporate the purchase and disposal of carbon credits to offset bitcoin-related emissions, was rejected for not meeting requirements set by the Exchange Act.
An AmEx travel spinoff will begin trading publicly on May 31. American Express Global Business Travel, one of the largest B2B travel platforms, will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange at the end of the month. American Express holds a minority interest and licenses its name to the travel business.
Tether launched its USDT stablecoin on the Polygon Network. Hard on the heels of Tether’s launch of a stablecoin pegged to the Mexican peso, the company is moving ahead with plans to launch USDT on more blockchains.
Investor Bill Miller doesn’t agree with Warren Buffett’s take on bitcoin. Buffet dinged the cryptocurrency for being a non-productive asset with no value. Miller’s response: Buffett should just “ignore it” then. In his perspective, “the objective of investing is not to own productive assets — the objective is to make money.”
CFTC Commissioner Caroline Pham and SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce have joined forces to urge their respective agencies to lay down their weapons in the crypto regulation fight. While they acknowledged that both agencies “aspire to increase their regulatory reach over the technology,” “crypto gives [them] a new opportunity to cooperate and do so publicly.”
WealthStack runs from Tuesday through Friday. The wealth-management conference includes Nouriel Roubini and Eli Manning as speakers.
Banco Santander’s earnings call is set for Wednesday. BSBR’s average estimated EPS is at $0.22, a 29% increase from the prior quarter.
GameStop’s earnings call is also scheduled for Wednesday. GME’s average estimated EPS is at -$1.37, with losses decreasing by 26% from the prior quarter. Expect some discussion of GameStop’s NFT store and wallet.
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Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!