Federal agencies should quickly clarify the legal status of Ether as industry players clamor to list derivatives tied to the world’s second-most traded cryptocurrency, a Republican financial regulator said.
Brian Quintenz, a commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said Monday that exchanges have “expressed interest” in listing Ether derivatives. Quintenz said staff at the CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission have been meeting about whether Ether is a security that falls under the SEC’s jurisdiction. The CFTC has said cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are commodities and the regulator oversees its derivatives.
“There are a lot of big issues to sort out,” Quintenz told reporters after a speech at the Consensus industry conference in New York, referring to Ether’s status. “We’re sorting them out, but I don’t have a timeline. I wouldn’t say days, but I wouldn’t say months,” he said, referring to how long off a decision on Ether may be.
The CFTC and the SEC have been sorting out the jurisdictional issues around virtual currencies for months as the global craze has prompted hundreds of new listings. The SEC has said that many initial coin offerings are actually unregistered securities, while the CFTC allowed Bitcoin futures to begin trading last December on exchanges run by CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc.
CME said on Monday that it created real-time and daily reference price indexes for Ether, fueling speculation that the exchange will seek to list futures on the cryptocurrency.
The status of Ether has become the focus of intense debate and speculation in recent weeks. While it originally launched as an ICO, the currency’s backers argue that it no longer should be considered a security, in part, because its now held by so many different people for different purposes.
If the SEC were to classify a large cryptocurrency like Ether as a security its price could plunge, costing retail investors who have been piling in since last year. That’s because none of the biggest U.S.-based cryptocurrency trading platforms are registered with the SEC as securities exchanges.
“The market needs some certainty and some clarity in our space,” Quintenz said. “Exchanges and the market itself are demanding a product” tied to Ether, he added.