The House Financial Services Committee subpoenaed several CEOs of large crypto firms in the United States. Some of them formed a united front, calling on lawmakers to finally shape a clear regulatory framework for crypto businesses.
The executives of six cryptocurrency companies spoke out before the House Financial Services Committee about the promise, perils and benefits of cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. Some of the executives tried to convince the committee that it was focusing on the wrong questions and should think about the bigger picture.
Fact-finding mission on cryptocurrencies
The hearing was called by Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the Democratic chair of the committee. It is part of a “fact-finding mission” on cryptocurrencies that are intended to help members decide what steps to take next on stablecoins and other cryptocurrencies. The committee declined to provide a timeline for possible legislative action but acknowledged the possibility that it could be imminent given the concerns and urgency expressed by financial regulators.
The House hearing aimed to discuss four key aspects of the crypto space: Exchanges, stablecoin offerings, regulatory concerns with digital assets, and federal regulatory responses. Lawmakers are also likely to examine the metaverse with its non-fungible tokens (NFTs), as well as decentralized finance (DeFi), at a later date. Finally, DeFi has the potential to replicate and replace conventional financial service delivery such as lending, asset trading, insurance, and other services.
In a written statement released prior to the hearing, the CEO of USDC issuer Circle felt that the company supported Congressional efforts to establish national licensing and federal oversight for stablecoin issuers. After all, he said, many companies have grown up to be ignored. Chad Cascarilla, CEO of stablecoin issuer Paxos, seemed to echo that sentiment, describing the U.S. financial system as “inadequate” for dealing with the emerging digital economy. Blockchain technology, however, could offer a potential solution, he said:
“A blockchain-based financial architecture could settle trades on the same day, mitigate counterparty risk, and eliminate the need for the costly central clearinghouse. This would allow market participants and regulators to monitor and correct settlement and margin failures in real time. We agree that shortening the trade settlement cycle should be a high priority for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).” – Chad Cascarilla, CEO Paxos
BitFury CEO Brian Brooks added that there are already examples of companies operating in the digital asset space that find a more regulatory-friendly environment in other countries. For example, asset manager Fidelity, which was able to easily launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in Canada. This would have led to an eventual talent exodus. Crypto talent is no longer concentrated in Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the original commercial Internet, according to Brooks. A surprising number of talented founders have migrated to Portugal, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and other countries, he said. Far from being unregulated, these countries have adopted a more positive attitude toward innovation and growth in this industry, he said.
Activities are already regulated
Congressman Patrick McHenryn, in his speech to crypto CEOs, argued that technology in the crypto space is already regulated, but acknowledged that any existing framework could be “clunky” and “not up to date.” According to the North Carolina congressman, a lack of understanding among his committee colleagues could lead to crypto and blockchain being overregulated – which is another reason why this hearing is important.
“We need reasonable rules of the game, we know that. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions from lawmakers who regulate out of fear of the unknown instead of even trying to understand it. This fear of the unknown could lead to regulating before understanding. That will stifle American ingenuity and put us at a competitive disadvantage.” – Patrick McHenry, Congressman from North Carolina
Also touched on in his statement was the decentralization of the crypto industry. Republican Chairman Patrick McHenry made the case for Web3 as the next generation of the Internet. Companies representing CEOs in attendance would make it easier for Americans to participate in the digital asset ecosystem. He advocated not overregulating this for the wrong reasons, as has happened before with new technologies. At the time, England responded to the advent of the automobile with laws that required a vehicle to be operated by three people at all times. One person had to drive, a second had to refuel the vehicle, and a third had to stand in front of the car and wave a red flag.
In dialogue on the regulatory framework
Most of the delegates were generally positive about the industry and thanked the companies present for their important discussion and integrity. Overall, there was an appreciation for the way the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services approached these issues with open-mindedness, curiosity and nuance. Many of the CEOs in attendance were optimistic that further dialogue could lead to a regulatory framework for stablecoins that encourages innovation.
Another hearing on stablecoins will take place next week after Senator Sherrod Brown, the crypto critic and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, sent a series of letters with questions to the CEOs of major stablecoin issuers and crypto exchanges. The requests were sent to Coinbase, Gemini, Binance, Paxos, Circle and other firms. Sherrod asked for clarification on redemption processes and the issuance and trading of stablecoins in the latest discussion, presumably as a basis for the upcoming hearing.