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‘Is Ether a commodity or a security?’

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Patrick McHenry, chair of the United States House Financial Services Committee, jumped right into criticism of the Securities and Exchange Commission and its leadership over digital assets at an oversight hearing. 

In an April 18 hearing on oversight of the SEC, Representative McHenry used his opening statement to bring up the commission’s “punishing” of digital asset firms through regulation by enforcement without a clear path to compliance. The congressman reiterated calls for U.S. lawmakers to provide “clear rules of the road” for crypto through legislation. In addition, he pressed SEC chair Gary Gensler to give a definitive answer on whether Ether (ETH) qualified as a security under the SEC’s purview, or a commodity under the Commodity Future Trading Commission’s.

McHenry repeatedly talked over Gensler’s responses that did not include specifics, citing the SEC chair’s willingness to label Bitcoin (BTC) as a commodity and hinting at private discussions on ETH prior to the hearing.

“Clearly an asset cannot be both a commodity and a security,” said McHenry. “I’m asking you, sitting in your chair now, to make an assessment under the laws as exist, is Ether a commodity or a security?” 

He added:

“You have pre-judged on this: you’ve taken 50 enforcement actions. We’re finding out as we go, as you file suit, as people get Wells notices, on what is a security in your view, in your agency’s view.”

Related: Video of SEC chair praising Algorand resurfaces after recently deeming it a security

Representative Maxine Waters, ranking member of the House committee, did not press Gensler on ETH but focused her questioning on the SEC’s enforcement capabilities. According to the SEC chair, the commission had the means, the authority, and the will to bring crypto firms into regulatory compliance.

Magazine: Crypto regulation: Does SEC Chair Gary Gensler have the final say?

This is a developing story, and further information will be added as it becomes available.