SEC Appoints First ‘Crypto Czar’ Valerie Szczepanik

In a move viewed by some as a sign that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is furthering its legislative oversight of digital assets, the agency appointed a new senior advisor – already being called the first ‘crypto czar’ – tasked with overseeing digital asset technologies, including ICOs and cryptocurrencies.

The SEC announced yesterday that Valerie Szczepanik has been appointed as the Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation for the division’s acting director Bill Hinman.

Serious Responsibilities

In her new role, Szczepanik is being tasked with a lot of actionable responsibilities. According to the official press release, she will have to “coordinate efforts across all SEC Divisions and Offices regarding the application of U.S. securities laws to emerging digital asset technologies and innovations, including Initial Coin Offerings and cryptocurrencies.”

Hinman believes that she is more than suited for the challenge:

[Szczepanik] is a recognized leader in responding to developments in our markets. I am excited to have her join me and the Division’s staff as the SEC continues to collaborate with retail investors, issuers and other market participants, in this important and rapidly evolving area.

The SEC’s Chairman, Jay Clayton, also expressed his confidence in Szczepanik, saying that:

Valerie’s thought leadership in this area is recognized both within the Commission and across financial regulators in the United States and abroad.

He added:

Val is the right person to coordinate our efforts in this dynamic area that has both promise and risk.

Who Is Valerie Szczepanik?

According to the official release, Szczepanik joined the SEC back in 1997. Prior to her latest appointment, she was an Assistant Director in the Division of Enforcement’s Cyber Unit. She also heads the SEC’s Distributed Ledger Technology Working Group.

The latter is a part of the SEC’s Fintech division and it represents a group of approximately 75 people who are working in close connection with federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as different regulatory partners, to build expertise and to identify the emerging risk areas. The group is also tasked with coordinating efforts among other SEC’s offices and divisions, meaning that Szczepanik already has the experience needed for her new position.

Who Is Valerie Szczepanik?

Earlier this year, Szczepanik shared her thoughts on initial coin offerings (ICOs):

They’re raising a lot of money, but they’re not complying with the rules that are in place to protect investors. […] What we’re seeing is the issuance of these tokens before a platform is built.

She also stressed that a lot of the ICOs are designed to raise money for the underlying company instead of launching an actual cryptocurrency, hence falling within the definition of a security under the acting legislation.

Regarding her new appointment, Szczepanik said:

I am excited to take on this new role in support of the SEC’s efforts to address digital assets and innovation as it carries out its mission to facilitate capital formation, promote fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and protect investors, particularly Main Street investors.

It does seem that with its new Senior Advisor on board, the SEC will continue to raise concerns about ICOs, much like it did with its own mock ICO called HoweyCoins.

What do you think of the SEC’s new appointment? How does it bode for ICOs and the crypto space in general? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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