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Gary Gensler Says Crypto Industry Is ‘Rife With Fraud’ in Heated Interview

3 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • SEC Chair Gary Gensler, never a fan of the cryptocurrency market, ratchets up his rhetoric in a Bloomberg interview.
  • Gensler gives evasive answers on the significance of Ripple's historic court victory against the regulators.
  • Instead of answering the host directly, he paints the industry as a cesspool of fraud and noncompliance.
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Gary Gensler, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), offered some of his most vehement rhetoric to date about the cryptocurrency industry in a Friday interview on Bloomberg Daybreak Podcast.

The crypto sector, Gensler said, is “a field rife with fraud, rife with hucksters,” and cast doubt on the prospects for a Bitcoin ETF in an industry with such a poor compliance record. He also called for “more cops on the beat” to bring bad actors to justice.

Gensler’s Rhetoric Demonizes Crypto

When the host of the podcast asked Gensler about the ramifications of Ripple’s partial victory over the SEC in a long-running lawsuit, Gensler evaded the question.

The host noted that the ruling confirms that Ripple’s token, XRP, is a security only in its sale to institutional investors. Not when people trade it on public exchanges.

Gensler said he was “disappointed” by the ruling, the host noted, before asking him to elaborate. The SEC is not accepting the decision lying down. But what did the agency mean when it said it “intends to seek further review”?

The SEC chair’s answer was vague:

“The Commission has not acted on that, and if the staff makes a recommendation, we’ll have a discussion of it and we’ll take it up then. But I don’t really have anything more for you, for that.”

Gensler’s Vague Answers and Broad Hostility to Crypto

The host then asked whether the Ripple ruling complicates the SEC’s efforts to regulate tokens as securities.

Refusing to give a straight answer, Gensler changed tack. He said investors should know that crypto is a “highly speculative” asset class. And that they should never assume they will enjoy the protections of securities regulations. Gensler went on:

“Even though the securities laws apply to many of those tokens, without prejudging any one. But you as investors are not getting the full, fair, and truthful disclosure. And the platforms, the intermediaries, are doing things that we would never, in a day, allow or think the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq would do. The platforms, often, are commingling or trading against you and have market makers, often, that are on the other side of the trades.”

Gensler still was not done disparaging the crypto industry. He went on to issue a categorical slur against the sector, along with a half-hearted qualification:

“This is a field rife with fraud, rife with hucksters. And there are good faith actors as well, but there are far too many that aren’t.”

Gary Gensler’s rhetoric does not take into account the sheer size of the crypto market and the fact that most industry players are not criminal fraudsters. Source: Statista

Gensler Not Bullish on Spot Bitcoin ETFs

The host noted that many players in the industry have approached regulators looking for approval for a spot Bitcoin ETF.

The most prominent player is BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which awaits an answer on its filing.

So far, no approvals have come through. What does Gensler make of this flurry of filings, the host asked. Instead of answering the question or providing any substantive insight on the question of Bitcoin EFTs, Gensler went on to slander the industry again. He said:

“This is a field that, there’s a lot of non-compliance in this field, and, uh, that the platforms themselves, where trading is occurring of various crypto tokens, though some of it comes under the securities laws, currently they’re not necessarily compliant with those time-tested protections against fraud and manipulation.”

Will the CFTC Gain Broader Oversight?

In the final part of the interview, the host notes that, on Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee advanced legislation that would shift authority over crypto largely to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). However, the change is a long way from becoming law. What does Gensler think?

Gensler refused to give a straight answer.

“I understand your question, but I think those members on the Hill would appreciate if I continue to share my thoughts directly with them,” he said.

The host then asked whether Gensler thought it would be helpful to increase the fines that the SEC imposes on bad actors.

“If you’re asking whether we could use more authorities, I would say, we need more cops on the beat. We need more resources. Our agency is just the size we were in 2016. We actually shrank, we’ve kind of come back, and yet the markets have grown so significantly in those seven years,” he said.

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Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn is a New York-based managing editor who joined BeInCrypto in March 2023. Over his career, he written extensively about the corporate legal world and the intersection of finance and law, has produced thousands of articles and features, and has mentored many reporters and researchers finding their way in a fast-changing industry.