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U.S. House Committees present discussion draft to clarify regulatory framework for crypto assets

Lawmakers from the United States House Financial Services Committee and House Agriculture Committee have taken a decisive step towards providing regulatory clarity in the cryptocurrency industry. To address longstanding concerns of regulatory ambiguity and the lack of clear rules, they have released a draft discussion offering a potential pathway for certain crypto assets to be classified as digital commodities. The proposed legislation aims to establish a functional framework that tackles the challenges faced by the industry.



A framework for clarity



The draft bill aims to prevent the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from denying digital asset trading platforms the opportunity to register as regulated alternative trading systems. This regulatory move will enable these platforms to offer “digital commodities and payment stablecoins.” By providing a regulatory framework that defines specific rules of engagement, lawmakers hope to create a more conducive environment for crypto firms operating within the United States.



The primary objective of the proposed legislation is to address the criticism aimed at the SEC for its lack of clear guidelines and rules concerning the classification of digital assets. According to the bill’s framework, certain digital assets would be classified as digital commodities if they demonstrate functionality and decentralization. The SEC would be required to provide a detailed analysis of any objections raised against a firm’s classification as decentralized, ensuring transparency in the process.



Proposed modifications for broker-dealers



The draft bill also calls for modifying SEC rules to allow broker-dealers to have custody of digital assets, provided they meet specific requirements. This provision aims to tackle the ongoing challenge faced by industry participants who seek regulatory clarity and a defined legal framework for the custody of digital assets. The bill further urges the SEC to modernize regulations related to digital assets, acknowledging the necessity to adapt to the evolving landscape of the crypto industry.



Prominent industry players, including Coinbase’s chief legal officer, Paul Grewal, have supported the proposed legislation. Grewal commended the draft bill for laying a strong foundation for regulatory jurisdiction and definitions within the crypto space. However, he emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough review before its formal introduction.



House Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry and House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn Thompson, both Republicans, introduced the discussion draft. Notably, the legislation was drafted without input from lawmakers on the other side of the political aisle. While there have been instances of bipartisan cooperation on crypto regulation, the potential advancement of this proposed legislation in a divided Congress remains uncertain.



The release of the discussion draft coincided with the House and Senate passing legislation to prevent a government default by raising the debt ceiling. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law on June 2, signaling the active legislative activity in Washington, D.C.



As the draft bill awaits further deliberation and potential revisions, industry stakeholders and lawmakers will closely monitor its progress and assess the implications of the proposed framework on the evolving landscape of digital assets and the regulatory environment. Given the mounting challenges faced by the SEC in defining regulatory boundaries for cryptocurrencies, the outcome of this legislative endeavor could significantly shape the future of the industry in the United States.

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