The cryptocurrency trading marketplace could be improved by applying some of the principles from the stock market such as best execution and surveillance, a senior U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official said on Thursday.
While the cryptocurrency market is still evolving, it resembles a sort of “Wild West,” said Brett Redfearn, who heads SEC’s trading and markets division, and the regulator has a number of concerns it would like to see addressed.
Key among the SEC’s concerns are fraud, market manipulation, theft, cybersecurity, terrorist financing and money laundering, he said at a financial technology conference in New York held by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.
Jay Clayton, SEC Chairman has said he generally considers initial coin offerings, or ICOs, to be securities offerings subject to certain regulatory requirements.
There are some 1,500 cryptocurrencies trading currently, and the SEC has repeatedly warned investors to exercise caution when considering getting involved in new ICOs, especially as many of the online crypto-trading platforms resemble highly regulated stock exchanges.
“There are no registered exchanges, there are no registered ATSs (Alternative Trading Venues) trading any of these products,” said Redfearn, a former JPMorgan Chase executive. “That is a very big concern for us,” he said, stressing that while the SEC does not want to stifle innovation, it has a duty to protect investors.
Redfearn also said the SEC’s enforcement division is “very busy” looking into the slew of recent ICOs.
The cryptocurrency market resembles the equities market in the 1990s when electronic trading venues known as ECNs (electronic trading networks) began popping up, with prices that were not always aligned with each other, he said. But rules evolved and the equities market has since become much more efficient.
“I’m not sure all of the rules would translate over, but there are certain principles that exist in that space that we have to then apply in some respect to what’s happening with crypto-asset trading,” Redfearn said of the equities market.
Those principles include defining best execution, and protecting against fraud, market manipulation and theft, he said.