SEC leader touts record on digital assets on his way out the door
Bill Hinman, outgoing director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chose to focus one of his last speeches on the commission’s achievements in regulating crypto during his tenure.
In remarks published on the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, website on Nov. 18, Hinman cited the SEC’s record as being open to technologies like cryptocurrencies and blockchain without the need for overhauling the existing regulatory framework.
“Being able to apply the federal securities laws to new and emerging technologies like digital assets without having to create an entirely new regulatory framework — as some other jurisdictions have had to do — is a testament to the flexible nature of our securities regime,” said Hinman. “It has allowed us to keep pace with innovation, facilitate capital formation and protect investors in a deliberate, thoughtful and effective manner.”
He specifically touted his role since joining the commission three years ago in determining whether tokens were securities using the “Howey Test.” Since the 1940s, the SEC has used this test to determine whether certain assets qualify as “investment contracts” and are considered securities. The SEC’s 2017 DAO Report, in which it said that digital assets could indeed qualify, is considered by many as one of the most significant regulatory moments for cryptocurrencies in the United States.
In addition, Hinman referenced the SEC’s launch of its Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, or FinHub, in 2018. The regulatory arm was set up to allow engagement with individuals in FinTech, specifically those dealing with digital assets and distributed ledger technology. Last April, Hinman published a framework with FinHub head Valerie Szczepanik to help market participants ascertain whether or not digital assets are considered an investment contract, and therefore a security.
According to Hinman, establishing this regulatory path for digital assets has led to companies that once conducted unregistered initial coin offerings, or ICOs, to now register them as securities and report on their operations.
The SEC announced on Oct. 27 that Hinman would be leaving the agency by the end of the year. Current Deputy Shelley Parratt will reportedly step up as Acting Director for the Division of Corporation Finance at that time.
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