Rostin Behnam, Biden’s nominee to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday for a confirmation hearing.
Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s questions clearly focused on Behnam’s plans for the cryptocurrency market.
Behnam cited a number of recent CFTC enforcement actions, including recent fines levied against Tether and Bitmex. “Because of limited statutory authority,” Benham explained, “we’ve been one of the few cops on the beat.”
“We’ve only scratched the surface of the iceberg.” The total value of the digital asset market as of yesterday was $2.7 trillion. Commodities accounted for nearly 60% of the $2.7 trillion.”
Behnam went on to request increased statutory authority in order to become the “primary cop on the beat.”
Behnam and Stabenow had a particularly cordial exchange; Behnam was previously Stabenow’s senior counsel.
Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, testified today to emphasize the point, asking, “Are there additional tools that would be helpful for the CFTC on [digital assets]?”
“Without a doubt,” Behnam replied. “The market transactions that are currently taking place are a significant part of the risk that digital assets pose.”
He also asked for a “regulatory structure for both securities and commodities.”
Nobody mentioned specific policies, but it is clear that coordination between the two committees is critical. Because the original commodities were mostly agricultural products, the CFTC reports to the Agriculture Committee. The Banking Committee, on the other hand, is in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the United States’ securities regulator (SEC).
The cross-committee interaction on crypto is critical, as lawmakers in the leadership are laying the groundwork for increased authority for regulators such as the CFTC in digital asset markets, as well as a long-standing campaign to secure more funding for those agencies.