CFTC Signals Intent to Increase Enforcement of Crypto-Related Cases

NEW YORK—The number of cases of alleged digital asset fraud and manipulation continues to accelerate, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said.

“Headlines about the loss of tens of millions of dollars in digital assets due to protocol exploits, phishing attacks, preying on vulnerable people and other fraudulent and manipulative schemes have become far too common,” CFTC Chairman

Rostin Behnam

said Wednesday in a video message delivered at a crypto industry conference in New York.

“Recent global conflicts have highlighted the ability for digital assets to be a tool for those who present risks to the broader American economy, the public and our way of life,” he added.

The derivatives markets regulator has filed more than 50 enforcement actions related to digital asset activity since 2015, and more than half of those cases involved allegations of fraud, Mr. Behnam said in the message to the conference hosted by blockchain data platform Chainalysis Inc. Twenty-three of those crypto-related cases were filed within the last fiscal year, he added.

About two-thirds of the total number of crypto-related fraud enforcement actions were brought in the past 2½ years, Mr. Behnam said.

The CFTC chairman last October cited two enforcement actions totaling $140 million in penalties, adding that these were only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Mr. Behnam’s latest remarks come as the crypto market saw another wave of volatility in recent weeks. Cryptocurrency TerraUSD and its sister stablecoin, Luna, crashed last week, saddling investors with billions of dollars in losses.

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Mr. Behnam said the CFTC looks to prioritize the use of its existing authority to deter and combat fraud and manipulation in the crypto markets and will continue to add resources in this area, including using tools to help its enforcement efforts.

The CFTC chief asked lawmakers in February to grant his agency authority to regulate cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, saying the “speculative fervor” around such assets left investors in need of protection.

Mr. Behnam on Wednesday also called on crypto industry participants to support regulatory obligations and to work together to identify and stop bad actors before fraud and manipulation occur.

“I also call on everyone here today to continue to advocate and support regulatory obligations that will make these markets more transparent, safer and resilient,” he said. “I’ve said many times, the crypto markets present unique characteristics that would benefit from the federal market oversight.”

Write to Mengqi Sun at

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