SEC Commissioner Issues Caveats on Proposed Action Plan During Blockchain Summit

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Commissioner Hester Peirce of the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a number of caveats in a recently discussed action plan during the previous Blockchain Summit in D.C.

As the Digital Chamber of Commerce suggested in its National Action Plan, the federal governments should “make blockchain technology a priority” by promoting the development in the nascent industry by adopting a less stringent regulatory approach as well as delineating clear policies based on what the technology can provide instead of what type of technology is used. Furthermore, the industry lobbyist also called for further coordination between the state and federal sectors in an effort to prevent “regulatory patchwork.”

As the Chamber’s founder Perianne Boring stated in her opening remarks:

“If we want the United States to be a leader in advanced technology we have to take action. It is time the United States introduced a national strategy for blockchain.”

The action plan was subsequently brought up the next day with Commissioner Peirce, who addressed the measure stating that while she appreciated the proposal, she did underscore several provisos.

Underscoring the need for innovation to come from the private sector instead of calling on the federal government to initiate large-scale cooperation in the country, Peirce argued:

When you try to get national action plans … not [the Chamber] specifically, but people think ‘oh wouldn’t it be great if we coordinated this from the government’ and that has gotten us into lots of problems in the past.”

As she went on adding:

“We need to have clear regulatory guidelines, that’s something I think you’ve been very forthright in calling for, which I think is really important. We do need to let people know where they stand, but then within that we need to let people do what they want to do and try not to have too much government partnership with the private sector.”

As the commissioner suggested, the government should just establish guidelines and “let the innovation happen on its own,” adding that what innovators can do is to coordinate with the SEC and other government sectors to address which area needed clarity.

As she further stated:

You all need to come in and tell us where the pain points are, where the old regime doesn’t fit, and then we can move forward with guidance.”

While Peirce stressed that she advocates the establishment of a Commission-level guideline that would delineate the legal lines and how blockchain ventures could work around those lines, she also underscored that “we need from you examples of where that would be helpful.”

Among those pain points between blockchain innovators and the securities regulator is the pace at which each group generally works. While the agency believes that the industry is “moving quickly,” blockchain firms, on the other hand, think that the SEC may be moving too slowly, Peirce argued.

Citing the regulator’s FinHub division which was created to serve as a resource for public engagement on the SEC’s FinTech-related issues and initiatives, Peirce further noted that to date, only a few projects have so far provided feedback on the branch’s submission form, adding that:

“We’ve gotten … maybe five or six letters and I was pretty disappointed by that. It does take work on your part but we really need people to be writing in.”