SEC Beefs Up Its Crypto And Cyber Enforcement Units, Signaling

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This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission doubled down on its crypto and cyber enforcement unit hires in a bid to strengthen its war chest against crimes related to crypto and cyber security.

According to a Tuesday announcement, the SEC announced the allocation of 20 additional positions to the unit bringing the total unit’s staff to 50. Following the addition, the newly renamed Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit (previously the “cyber unit”) will be tasked with among other tasks; investigating securities law violations related to crypto-asset offerings, crypto-asset exchanges, NFTs, decentralized finance “DeFi” platforms, and stablecoins.

“The infusion of 20 additional positions into the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit will bolster the ranks of its supervisors, investigative staff attorneys, trial counsels, and fraud analysts in the agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC, as well as several regional offices.” The announcement read.

The cyber unit, which was first created in 2017 before changing its name last year has managed to bring forth over 80 enforcement actions related to crypto resulting in monetary relief totaling more than $2 billion.

“The Division of Enforcement’s Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit has successfully brought dozens of cases against those seeking to take advantage of investors in crypto markets. By nearly doubling the size of this key unit, the SEC will be better equipped to police wrongdoing in the crypto markets while continuing to identify disclosure and controls issues with respect to cybersecurity.” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement.

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However, while the SEC has undoubtedly prevented significant fraudulent practices or helped repatriate affected crypto users, its approach toward enforcement still remains blurred. Following the announcement, Alexander Grieve, vice president of government relations firm Tiger Hill Partners lushed out at the agency for seemingly not being focused on policing fraudulent practices. He expressed disappointment at the SEC’s focus on “protecting investors” from everything it views as currently unregistered securities or securities platforms.

“The SEC is a regulatory agency with an enforcement division, not an enforcement agency. Why are we leading with enforcement in crypto?” Hester Peirce, one of the four SEC commissioners also tweeted after the Tuesday announcement.

Despite being castigated for blindly forerunning enforcement despite there being no regulations on crypto, SEC chair Gary Gensler has retained that his agency will continue tightening the noose around digital assets. Earlier this year he stated that crypto firms offering customer investment and securities contracts were covered under existing securities laws.

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