U.S. GAO recommendations to SEC before spot Bitcoin ETF approval revealed

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The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended three key execution plans to the Securities and Exchange Commission before its spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) approval on Jan. 10. The recommendations were focused on workforce management for the digital asset market and how the regulator would deal with the nascent industry in the coming years.

The GAO recommendations were put forward to the SEC on Dec. 15 and made public on Jan. 16. The GAO report recommended that the SEC prepare a new workforce plan, document policies and procedures for SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (FinHub) internal controls, and then develop performance goals and measures for FinHub.

GAO is an independent, nonpartisan audit institution of the U.S. federal government within the legislative branch that offers auditing, evaluative, and investigative services for the U.S. Congress.

In its assessment of the SEC and its ability to deal with the rising crypto market, the GAO found that the SEC staffs 116 people who work primarily on matters related to crypto assets. However, the SEC has not prepared a new workforce planning strategy to update its fiscal years 2019–2022 strategy. GAO recommended that doing so would better position the SEC to meet its future workforce needs and to carry out its oversight and policymaking duties related to crypto assets.

GAO also found that the SEC’s FinHub helps coordinate SEC oversight of emerging technology but does not have documented policies, procedures, or performance goals. While FinHub has operating processes in place, such as meeting with market participants, it has not documented policies and procedures to support internal controls.

Related: SEC did not ‘approve or endorse Bitcoin’ with spot BTC ETF nod — Gary Gensler

Following the assessment, the GAO recommended the following three key execution plans:

1. The SEC chief should ensure that the chief Human capital officer prepares a new workforce planning strategy aligned with the agency’s 2022–2026 strategic and performance plans.  

2. The SEC chief should ensure that the Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology Director documents its policies and procedures supporting its internal controls. 

3. The Chair of SEC should ensure that the director of the Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology develops performance goals and measures that are objective, measurable, and targeted.

The GAO has also put a live status section against each recommendation to indicate whether the SEC has taken appropriate action against the recommendations.

GAO recommendations to SEC. Source: GAO

The SEC, in a historical judgment, approved 11 spot Bitcoin ETF applications on Jan. 10. The internal document shared by the SEC revealed that the approval came through a vote with three votes in favor and one against it. To many people’s surprise, SEC chief Gary Gensler was the deciding vote that made way for the first spot BTC ETF approval in the US after nearly half a decade of rejection.

Gold bug and a known Bitcoin critic, Peter Schiff, said that the SEC chief was backed into a corner on spot Bitcoin ETF approval. At the same time, he warned Gensler may “soon introduce new onerous crypto regulations that will substantially increase the cost of Bitcoin transactions, further undermining its ‘use ’ case, resulting in a sharp decline in price.”

All spot BTC ETF started publicly trading the next day, bringing record volumes of over $2 billion on the very first day.

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