The nation’s top financial regulator on Tuesday highlighted the role Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies play in the ransomware epidemic, and called on Congress to grant additional power to oversee the market for such digital assets.
In his first extensive remarks on the subject since he assumed office in April, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler said at the Aspen Security Forum that the cryptocurrency market resembled the “Wild West.” Cybercriminals are one of the few groups that has found a practical use for cryptocurrency, besides as a speculative asset, he said.
“To the extent that it is being used as a medium of exchange, it’s usually often to skirt our laws with respect to anti-money laundering, sanctions, tax collection, on the dark web, and yes, it has also enabled extortion via ransomware as we’ve seen recently in Colonial Pipeline and elsewhere,” he said.
Gensler, who taught courses on blockchain at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the SEC, said his main motivation for requesting additional oversight powers is to protect investors. “If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.”
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