Gary Gensler teases details of SEC’s $5B take from enforcement actions, shades crypto

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United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler’s speech at the 2023 Securities Enforcement Forum shed light on the regulatory body’s enforcement actions amounting to $5 billion in judgments and orders. However, Gensler’s dig at the cryptocurrency market became a talking point for the crypto community on social media when he said: “Don’t get me started on crypto. I won’t even name all the individuals we’ve charged in this highly noncompliant field.”

While talking about the economic perspective of the SEC’s enforcement action, Gensler noted that the agency filed more than 780 enforcement actions in 2023, including more than 500 standalone cases. The enforcement actions led to judgments and orders totaling $5 billion, out of which $930 million were distributed to harmed investors.

Gensler added that the SEC had filed lawsuits against 40 firms for violations of various rules and regulations since December 2021, leading to more than $1.5 billion in penalties. Gensler revealed that the SEC settled recordkeeping-related charges with 23 firms in the last fiscal year alone.

In his speech, the SEC chief reiterated his earlier stance on crypto, claiming that most of the crypto market falls under the securities bracket and, thus, must be governed under the same law. In his explanation of the broad definition of security, Gensler explained the concept of an “investment contract” and why a major chunk of the cryptocurrency market resembles it. According to Gensler, most cryptocurrency assets will pass the investment contract test, making them governed by securities regulations.

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Gensler went on to draw comparisons between the current crypto ecosystem and the financial landscape of the 1920s when securities laws were not in place. Gensler said that the crypto ecosystem is suffering from the same situation as the financial landscape before clear regulations came into place, leading to several scams, frauds and bankruptcies. He argued these issues necessitate stricter regulations.

“Without prejudging any one asset, the vast majority of crypto assets likely meet the investment contract test, making them subject to the securities laws.”

The SEC chief’s criticism of the crypto market is not new, and he has reiterated a similar stance for several years now. However, the crypto community, including some of the key businesses operating in the U.S. along with Congress members, have called upon Gensler to offer more clarity on crypto regulations.

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