SEC Chair Jay Clayton Says Crypto Markets Lack Price Discovery Rigor of Public Markets

The last time he spoke about cryptocurrencies to the press, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton held out hope for a Bitcoin ETF, indicating that “progress is being made” in cleaning up crypto markets.

Yesterday, at the Delivering Alpha conference organized by CNBC, Clayton reverted back to his old hostile stance towards cryptocurrencies. “If they (investors) think there is the same rigor in price discovery as there is on the Nasdaq or NYSE, they are sorely mistaken,” he said. “We have to get to a place where we can be confident that trading is better regulated.”

Taken at face value, that statement might seem open to multiple interpretations. Several new services and reports have catalogued the “fake volume” problem at exchanges and attempted to provide transparency. Others claim that the institutional view of crypto markets is one of efficiency and order as opposed to the one propagated by mainstream markets, in which they are scam-ridden and venues for criminals.

However, Clayton may have provided a hint of his requirements for regulated trading in his responses to earlier questions about private markets, another unregulated trading venue which has been in the news recently.

The We company, a co-working conglomerate, was forced to postpone its IPO after public investors raised an outcry about its mounting losses and poor governance. The New York company was valued at $47 billion in private markets but was forced to slash its valuation to roughly half before delaying the offering altogether.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, CNBC host, asked Clayton whether the We fiasco was reflective of inefficiencies in private markets and private investors, who were attempting to profit off the offering.

“There are several people operating in the private markets who are very good at understanding how companies perform and delivering that performance,” said Clayton. “Are the rules not as rigorous as public markets? Of course not. We know lots of people who have operated in private markets for decades and delivered outsized returns and put management teams through the same kind of rigor as public markets.”

In other words, the federal agency is looking to experienced investment and trading firms to bring order to a market that is said to be largely driven by retail interest. Some of that is already happening, as institutional grade custody solutions and trading firms evaluate or enter the crypto market.

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