The Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed the cryptocurrency market as one of the six focus points of its compliance monitoring activities for 2019.
According to a report titled “2019 Examination Priorities,” OCIE says it plans to shine the spotlight on the goings-on in the cryptocurrency. An excerpt from the report relating to cryptocurrencies reads:
Given the significant growth and risks presented in this [the crypto] market, OCIE will continue to monitor the offer and sale, trading, and management of digital assets, and where the products are securities, examine for regulatory compliance. In particular, through high-level inquiries, OCIE will take steps to identify market participants offering, selling, trading, and managing these products or considering or actively seeking to offer these products and then assess the extent of their activities.
To this end, the OCIE plans to examine the activities of firms operating in the digital asset market. This examination will cover sale, trading, as well as the management of cryptocurrency assets. The OCIE also plans to pay particular attention to cryptos deemed to be securities.
Commenting on the approach for 2019, Pete Driscoll, Director of the OCIE, said:
OCIE is steadfast in its commitment to protect investors, ensure market integrity and support responsible capital formation through risk-focused strategies that improve compliance, prevent fraud, monitor risk, and inform policy.
Identifying the virtual currency market as a priority isn’t a new development for the OCIE. Back in 2018, the emerging market also formed part of the OCIE’s agenda. However, the mandate for 2019 appears to be an extension of the goal for last year, which focused primarily on risk and security.
Too Much Regulation?
The expansion of OCIE’s focus on digital assets comes at a time when U.S. Federal Lawmakers are trying to establish a separate regulatory ambit for cryptocurrencies. Some commentators feel the SEC is over-regulating the industry, slowing the rate of innovation in the country with regard to digital assets.
In December 2018, Reuters reported that members of the GOP were frustrated with the leadership of the SEC over their stance on most ICOs being securities. This new report from the OCIE expanding its examination focus might exacerbate such concerns. Meanwhile, for the SEC, the Commission continues to state that strict laws create a safer marketplace.