SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce joined students in an informal Q&A on February 24 to discuss the regulation of cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and digital asset offerings. She has a long history in financial regulation.
The event was moderated by adjunct professor Mari Tomunen who teaches the course Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, and Digital Assets at the Law School.
To begin the conversation, Peirce was asked about her introduction to blockchain. She recounted hearing the term “cryptocurrency” for the first time in connection to Bitcoin over a decade ago when she worked at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. There, she conducted research on financial market regulation from 2012 until she was appointed by former President Trump to serve as one of the five commissioners at the SEC.
One of the most notable issues she has taken on since becoming a commissioner in 2018 is how to create a fair regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and their investors.
Peirce spent the rest of the time at BC Law engaging back and forth with students on the topic. The conversation flowed from where the solution for cryptocurrency regulation should come from, who should be the ultimate regulator for blockchain, and how the recent collapse of FTX has changed regulators’ sentiments towards cryptocurrency.
Peirce said that in the current environment, the country needs to contemplate—and seriously question—whether cryptocurrency can fit into existing regulatory frameworks. This was followed by a discussion about the type of regulatory world the country wants as it relates to blockchain.
“We want to have a balance. There are some people, like me, who are like, ‘Let’s have a little bit more of a free-for-all.’ Let’s educate people so that [when] they go into that free-for-all where they make their own decisions, they are in charge of their own lives,” she said. She contrasted this with another view that blockchain and cryptocurrencies need more vigilant regulation. The task moving forward is to balance competing interests to create an efficient and fair regulatory scheme.
Earlier in her career, Peirce was a senior counsel on the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where she advised Ranking Member Richard Shelby and other members of the committee on securities issues. She also served as counsel to SEC Commissioner Paul S. Atkins, and worked as a staff attorney in the SEC’s Division of Investment Management. She earned her JD at Yale Law School.