Gensler confirmation as SEC chair would be good for crypto, says Hester Peirce

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Hester Peirce of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission is well-known as a regulator who has shown consistent support for digital assets, so much so that her moniker “crypto mom” has become unshakeable.

In a new interview with the Thinking Crypto podcast, Peirce reflected on the United States’ regulatory approach to the asset class to date, arguing that, “I think we have missed the boat a bit on crypto. And I think a big piece of that comes from the failure to provide clarity in our rules.” She said that contrary to the persistent narrative that crypto is somehow indissociable from illegality and a desire to outwit the system, her own experience has been that industry participants want to comply with the rules, but have often struggled to do so without adequate guidance:

“Am I optimistic that we’re going to finally get to the point where we do provide more clarity? I think we have a good chance. […] We’re likely about to get a new chairman, Gary Gensler, who had his hearing in front of the Senate. That’s one step in the process. Then he has to get voted on. And if he does get confirmed and come to the SEC, he brings with them really deep knowledge of this asset class.”

The Senate Banking Committee has now voted 14-10 in favor of Gensler’s nomination being sent to the Senate floor, after two Republicans joined ranks with 12 Democrats to support the choice. 

Peirce underscored Gensler’s recent experience teaching courses on blockchain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noting that he’s been “surrounded by people who are enthusiastic about this technology.” In her view, Gensler understands the positive potential of the industry, as well as the need for more clarity in order to facilitate its development. Not having to convince him of these things will be “very helpful,” she said.

Peirce did note, however, that while the chairman does “set the agenda for the agency” and, in the case of Gensler, can be expected to support a better rulemaking approach to crypto, a considerable degree of day-to-day continuity at the SEC in its interaction with the crypto industry will be assured regardless of who’s chairman:

“The intent of having a five member commission is to have continuity over time, so that you don’t see massive swings in policy […] so it is important for people to know that the work of the commission […] [is] not going to change dramatically when a new chairman. […] The regulatory agenda may change quite a bit, but the work of the commission, [its] day-to-day work, […] will continue on regardless of who’s chairman.”

On this note of cautious optimism, Peirce also commented with good humor on her affectionate nickname in the U.S. crypto space, saying, “You know, I’ve always loved the idea of being a mom, and I’m not a mom in the real world. So being a mom in the virtual world is not a bad thing at all.” However, she quickly pushed back gently against any unwanted implications, commenting:

“I think it’s really important to say, no, regulators can’t be your parents. They’re not going to make your decisions for you and they’re not going to bail you out when you run into trouble.”

Peirce stressed that she’s “not an advocate for any particular asset class,” but rather “I’m an advocate for people having the ability to invest in the asset classes that they deem valuable for whatever their end objectives are.” Having first learned about Bitcoin (BTC) when she was at George Mason, she said she is a “big believer in the power of decentralization” and that cryptocurrency “fit really nicely into that.”