Meet the SEC’s first crypto czar
The SEC has a newly appointed and highly experienced crypto go-to.
- Name: Valerie Szczepanik
- Title: Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation for the Division Director Bill Hinman
It's a little wordy, but it's the SEC's newly created head of cryptocurrency advisory position, headed up by Valerie Szczepanik.
Slightly over a year ago, Szczepanik became the first SEC employee to publicly comment on ICO regulation, taking to the stage at the Consensus New York 2017 conference to urge companies issuing tokens to be responsible for protecting their investors. Regardless of whether or not a company is regulated by the SEC, she said, it still has a duty to its investors.
"If you want this industry to flourish, protection of investors should be at the forefront," she argued. Presciently, she also pointed out that the categorisation of tokens as securities, utilities, currencies or something else is a very finicky and circumstantial type of classification.
"Whether a token is a security or not is a fact or circumstance-based thing and you have to really pick it apart," Szczepanik said last year.
"Valerie recognized early on the securities law implications of developments like blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, and of cryptocurrencies, Initial Coin Offerings, tokenized securities, and other digital instruments," said division director Bill Hinman in a press release announcing Szczepanik's new appointment. "She is a recognised leader in responding to developments in our markets. I am excited to have her join me and the Division's staff as the SEC continues to collaborate with retail investors, issuers and other market participants, in this important and rapidly evolving area."
"Valerie's thought leadership in this area is recognized both within the Commission and across financial regulators in the United States and abroad," agreed Chairman Jay Clayton. "With her demonstrated skill, experience, and keen awareness of the importance of fostering innovation while ensuring investor protection, Val is the right person to coordinate our efforts in this dynamic area that has both promise and risk."
Szczepanik named her new goals as facilitating capital, promoting fair, orderly and efficient markets and protecting investors.
The new posting is a step beyond her previous role leading the SEC's distributed ledger technology working group, and alongside her regulatory knowledge, she brings a range of cybersecurity and cryptocurrency experience.
The SEC has previously been something of a looming yet intangible spectre in the US cryptocurrency scene, and just one regulatory branch among several that tried to chaotically jam all cryptocurrency into their existing responsibilities. For a while the result was to let shady projects run wild while leaving the reputable ones immobile and unable to move for fear of accidentally breaking the law.
But in just a few months, the situation has cleared up quickly and the SEC's role has clarified around consumer education and cracking down on fraudulent fundraising. Now the appointment of a new go-to cryptocurrency advisor might help further developments and promote better interdepartmental cooperation.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC, XRB
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