The SEC shows some mercy to broker-dealers handling security tokens

In a Christmas present for the crypto industry, broker-dealers who abide by existing rules while holding security tokens in custody will not face enforcement action for the next five years.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is listening.

At least, per a Dec. 23 announcement, the SEC is responding to long-term industry complaints that nobody knows who can handle security token trading. 

The SEC is both requesting comment on the issue and extending a hand to the crypto industry. Perhaps most notably, the commission’s announcement will keep broker-dealers safe from enforcement for the next five year: 

“In particular, the Commission’s position, which will expire after a period of five years from the publication date of this statement, is that a broker-dealer operating under the circumstances set forth in Section IV will not be subject to a Commission enforcement action.”

The “circumstances” specified basically boil down to keeping security tokens the primary focus of the operation and doing due diligence in terms of cybersecurity and disclosures to clients, including making sure every potential customer is aware that the broker-dealer in question is handling digital asset securities.

Alongside the announcement, the SEC is asking for comments on a number of issues related to proper requirements for security token trading. One of the questions suggests that the commission is looking to let investors use non-security tokens like Bitcoin and Ether to pay for security tokens: “Should this position be expanded to include the use of non-security digital assets as a means of payment for digital asset securities?”

Just weeks ago, a number of congresspeople signed a letter to the SEC asking the commission for clarity on this very issue. Those congresspeople repeated the chorus that has been coming from the crypto industry for a long time: regulatory clarity.

The SEC’s hesitance to issue major declarations is understandable in some sense. A regulator is hardly going to move as quickly as a tech developer. Consequently, many of the SEC’s most conspicuous moves have had fairly limited application, including a series of no-action letters for token projects. 

Despite long-term hopes that security tokens can upgrade the traditional equities markets, the industry has been plagued with siloed trading and low volumes.

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