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SEC commissioner Hester Peirce, a.k.a. crypto mom, recently posted a transcript of her speech at the Texas Blockchain Summit. In her remarks, she re-characterizes SEC Chairman Gary Gensler’s oft-used “Wild West” criticism to compliment crypto. But, then, she follows up with some very critical questions of the chairman’s regulatory approach thus far.
‘Lawless in Austin’: Peirce’s Speech
She posted her speech on October 8th, but it only gained traction recently after Peirce shared it through her Twitter. Providing a link, Peirce prefaces the speech by saying, “If the government wants to bring law to crypto, it should behave lawfully.”
She begins by addressing Gensler’s use of the term “Wild West” in describing the crypto industry. While she technically agrees with the time, she does so for different reasons. Gensler uses it to describe lawless chaos that needs regulation, whereas Peirce envisions it as a land of opportunity. His concept refers to the West of the 19th century.
She explains how things were a bit more orderly in the real wild West than movies would have us believe. She gives examples of ways in which the private sector regulated itself at the time. One method included ranchers that banned cowboys from drinking and gambling on their property.
“These accounts do not paint a picture of perfect order, but they suggest that societal order does not always come from the public sector,” argues Peirce. With this, the commissioner relates the “wild west” to the current crypto industry, which also self-regulates.
Protocol users, competitors, bug bounty hunters, and sophisticated skeptics monitor protocols for hints of centralization, administrator keys vulnerable to compromise, slow speed, high costs, lax security, and so forth (…) The persistence of both self-regulation and calls by the crypto community for clarity from government regulators suggest that lawlessness is not the prevailing culture of the crypto frontier.
Critical Questions From Peirce
Peirce asks the following questions through the rest of her speech, and elaborates thoroughly on all of them:
- Is There Legal Clarity Around Digital Assets?
- Do We Enforce Rules by Settling or Settling for Ambiguity?
- Are We Fighting for Investors or Fighting for Jurisdiction?
- Do We Protect Investors or Deny Investors Opportunity?
- Are We Going to Pretend Everything is Centralized So We Can Regulate It?
- Do We Catch Bad Actors or Create a Catch 22?
The commissioners’ questions suggest that Gensler and the rest of the SEC have misplaced their priorities thus far. She criticizes him for his claim to have provided regulatory clarity, which the industry lacks. Last month, Senator Pat Toomey sent a direct letter to Gensler criticizing him for the same thing.