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CFTC Says About 80% of all Cryptos Are Commodities

BTC and ETH officially classified as commodities

July 11, 2024 06:01 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

TL;DR Bitcoin and Ethereum were classified as commodities at the Digital Commodities Senate AG hearing. This decision aligns with the CFTC's stance but contrasts with SEC Chairman Gary Gensler's earlier statements. The classification sparks a new chapter in the regulatory landscape of digital assets.

Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) were officially classified as commodities during Wednesday's Digital Commodities Senate AG hearing. That's not all, however—Rostin Behnam, Chairman of the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), told senators that 70% to 80% of cryptocurrencies are commodities, which means they are under the CFTC's governance.

Official Classification

According to live coverage of the hearing by Fox journalist Eleanor Terret, Behnam confirmed that an Illinois court had validated the status of BTC and ETH as digital commodities under the Commodity Exchange Act.

This decision aligns with the CFTC's position, which has been notoriously at odds with previous statements by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler.

SEC and CFTC Discrepancies

Gensler had previously stated that only Bitcoin falls under the commodities classification, leaving the majority of other tokens subject to securities regulation based on the Howey test. Over the past year, this led to increased enforcement actions, with lawsuits against crucial industry players such as Binance, Coinbase, Ripple, and Uniswap Labs.

During the hearing, Senator Sherrod Brown questioned what lessons the CFTC has learned from past crypto frauds. Behnam responded by acknowledging the uniqueness of the technology behind Bitcoin and digital assets, which necessitates a different approach to cybersecurity and operational resilience than traditional asset classes.

Market Concerns and Enforcement

On the other hand, Senator Cory Booker expressed concerns about the prevalence of market abuse and the responsibility placed on the SEC and CFTC to address it. He noted that nearly half of the cases on the CFTC's enforcement docket are related to crypto, describing it as an "extraordinary" statistic.

Behnam admitted Booker's point, highlighting the challenges faced by an agency that oversees trillion-dollar markets while regulating a market that Behnam said is outside its jurisdiction and lacks dedicated funding.

Jurisdictional Conflicts

Senator Roger Marshall addressed the jurisdictional conflict between the SEC and the CFTC in recent months, determining the classification of digital assets.

Marshall suggested that the entire responsibility be placed under the jurisdiction of the CFTC, to which Behnam agreed, citing expertise and capacity. If this goes through, it would be a win for the industry's regulation, as Behnam has previously stated his pro-crypto thoughts.

As previously reported, during the Milken Institute's 27th annual Global Conference in May, Behnam emphasized the urgent need for regulatory frameworks and transparency in the rapidly growing crypto industry.

In addition, the CFTC Chairman predicted an increase in enforcement actions over the next two years due to increased interest from retail investors and the appreciation of digital assets without clear guidance.

Taxation Issues

The issue of taxation in the crypto space was also discussed during the hearing. Senator Tommy Tuberville raised concerns about the fairness of the IRS taxing BTC miners regardless of their profitability.

Behnam admitted his limited knowledge on the matter, prompting Tuberville to assert the need for a swift resolution to prevent harassment of individuals entering the crypto market.

Worryingly, Behnam highlighted that while the SEC and CFTC coordinate enforcement actions, the two agencies need more regulatory coordination.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin was trading at $57,870, down more than 4% in the past week, after a sharp decline of more than 20% in the past month from a June high above $70,000.

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