How to regulate crypto? It's complicated

It seems cryptocurrencies are an asset class that’s here to stay, but as the industry gains momentum, regulators are still unsure how to manage it.

30 November 2021

Cryptocurrencies are never very far from the news pages, but this year has brought fresh attention as regulatory authorities and governments the world over wrestle with the thorny issue of regulation. These early attempts at oversight look very different depending on the territory, but because of cryptos’ decentralised nature, rapid innovation, and the fact that the market is worth more than $2 trillion, regulators have their work cut out for them. There also seems to be a clash at a more fundamental level, where some incumbents are bent on maintaining the status quo, while others embrace this new and almost frictionless asset class, and hail it as the future of money. Crypto adoption is also very strong in developing countries, such as in Kenya, Nigeria and Vietnam, which has the highest adoption rate in the world, as well as in South Africa.

In the United States, there’s a new sheriff in town in the form of Security and Exchange Commission chairperson Gary Gensler. He said in late September that it will ‘not end well’ for crypto markets in the US if they remain outside the regulatory framework. Gensler, like many regulators, says they are trying to protect investors in crypto finance, issuance, trading and lending, and told the Senate Banking Committee in mid-September that, “it’s more like the Wild West or the old world of ‘buyer beware’ that existed before the securities laws were enacted.”

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