Former CFTC Commissioner Contemplates Ethereum's Dual Nature as Commodity and Security
Dan Berkovitz's Insights Shed Light on Regulatory Conundrum Surrounding Ether's Legal Classification
Thu, 25 May 2023, 14:05 pm UTC
Dan Berkovitz, the former United States Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner, has declared that Ethereum's in-house cryptocurrency, Ether (ETH), might straddle the line between two distinct classifications: a commodity and a security. This statement was made during an episode of Laura Shin's "Unchained" podcast on May 23.
Ether's unique and somewhat perplexing identity seems to be tied to an ongoing regulatory enigma fueled by the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), two titans of the financial regulatory landscape. Over the past half-year, the CFTC has steadfastly categorized Ether and several other digital currencies as commodities.
The SEC, now under the leadership of Gary Gensler, has remained elusive about assigning a clear-cut legal identity to Ether. In a notable instance from an April oversight hearing, Gensler suggested that every digital currency, except Bitcoin, should be considered a security while abstaining from further clarification.
Berkovitz's assertion of Ether potentially having a dual nature might seem puzzling, but he reasons that overlapping legal outlines for commodities and securities allow such a categorization. The conundrum, he elucidated, arises from a somewhat broad definition of commodities, not limited to physical items such as grains but extending to anything that can be included in a futures contract—hence the CFTC's namesake.
According to the Securities Act and the Exchange Act, Berkovitz explained that securities comprise items such as notes and investment contracts and can also be part of a futures contract, bringing it within the CFTC's sphere of influence.
The responsibilities of the CFTC primarily revolve around the regulation of futures and swaps on commodities, while the SEC exclusively oversees securities. However, if an asset is seen as a commodity by the CFTC and concurrently identified as a security by the SEC, it paves the way for dual regulatory jurisdiction.
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