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Hester Peirce: BitMEX Arrests Are a Clear Message From Regulators

2 mins
Updated by Ryan Smith
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In Brief

  • SEC commissioner Hester Peirce weighed in on the BitMEX case during an episode of the Unconfirmed Podcast.
  • According to Peirce, enforcement actions against BitMEX are a clear signal that regulators are paying more attention.
  • Peirce is also attempting to get a proposal approved for regulatory "safe harbors" that would buy token issuers some time.
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On October 13, SEC commissioner Hester Peirce aka crypto mom appeared on the Unconfirmed Podcast with Laura Shin.
In the interview, Shin and Peirce covered a lot of ground, including her take on the recent charges and arrests related to crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX.  To recap, on October 1, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFCT) took regulatory action against BitMEX. The U.S. Department of Justice also pressed criminal charges against its owners for allegedly running lax anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) protocols. Much of BitMEX’s senior leadership team stepped down in the wake of these enforcement actions, while the exchange’s parent company vowed to fight charges.    According to Peirce, the case is another example of the U.S. government sending a clear message: the crypto industry is under increased scrutiny from regulators and law enforcement.  Although the SEC was directly not involved in the BitMEX case, it has turned down several applications for Bitcoin exchange-traded funds. The SEC has also targeted some crypto companies for allegedly selling unregistered securities via initial coin offerings (ICOs). Celebrity influencers who promoted ICOs have also been in the regulator’s crosshairs. 

Industry Implications

When queried on the potential effect of the case on the crypto industry and future Bitcoin ETF applications, Peirce stated,
“I think the message has been coming to the industry fairly loud and clear on the AML/KYC front, and I’m sure it will continue. It’s a difficult area for traditional financial firms as well. Lots of firms run into trouble there, but it’s definitely sending a message to the crypto world.”
Pierce also alluded to the reason for the enforcement action,
“when there are U.S. users of a product or service, there’s going to be enforcement of U.S. laws, and that’s what we’re probably seeing here.”

Creating Safe Harbors 

In addition, the interview touched on Peirce’s continued advocacy for a proposal launched in February that would create so-called token “safe harbors.” If adopted, this proposal could provide cryptocurrency companies running ICOs a three-year grace period before the SEC took action against them.  Although she remains hopeful for “version 2.0,” Pierce said that at present, she has not been able to convince her colleagues to support the safe harbor proposal. 


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Colin Adams
Colin is a writer, researcher, and content marketer with a keen interest in the future of money. His writing has been featured in numerous cryptocurrency publications, and his...