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LUNA blowup underscores need for 'clear and holistic' regulation: CFTC commissioner

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Regulators are telling Congress the collapse of Terra's stablecoin project illustrates the need for more clarity from Capitol Hill.

In May, billions of dollars evaporated from TerraUSD (UST), an "algorithmic stablecoin" that sought to peg its value to the U.S. dollar using the reserves of a sister token known as LUNA.

Caroline Pham, who joined the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as commissioner in April, told Yahoo Finance regulators “failed” to protect the retail public due to a lack of clarity over the jurisdiction of the various federal financial regulators.

“We have decentralized regulation right now, where each agency is staking out their turf,” Pham said May 31. “I really welcome the efforts of Congress to provide a clear and holistic regulatory framework over crypto.”

The CFTC has regulatory authority over the trading of derivatives, as well as anti-fraud and anti-manipulation enforcement authority involving derivatives. But Pham said that she welcomes legislation that would further expand the CFTC’s jurisdiction in regulating the crypto space.

"Just recently, U.S. banking regulators have come out and said that they're looking at payment stablecoins," Pham told Yahoo Finance. "But, honestly, a lot of the stablecoins that are out there right now are being used for trading purposes. And, frankly, given the CFTC's broad jurisdiction, if something is not a security, then it's probably something that the CFTC has regulatory touch points over."

A bipartisan bill in the U.S. House seeks to expand the CFTC’s ability to regulate the trading of any coins or tokens that are not classified as securities (which would otherwise fall under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission). Currently, the CFTC only has the authority to regulate derivatives — such as cryptocurrency futures contracts — but not the spot products themselves, including actual crypto tokens.

Other agencies

There is an alphabet soup of financial regulators all waiting for clarity on how they fit into the framework for policing stablecoins. The SEC is still working on which digital currencies and projects fall into its remit, but the bank regulators like the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, have also jumped into the conversation.

One proposal involves requiring private stablecoin issuers to become banks or other licensed entities. Doing so could allow bank regulators to regulate and supervise those projects by ensuring that their reserves are robust enough to guarantee the U.S. dollar peg.

“This could enhance the ability to safely integrate them into the payments system,” New York Fed Executive Vice President Lorie Logan said on Thursday.

Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu told Yahoo Finance banks can engage with stablecoins and other cryptocurrencies, as long as they do not jeopardize the safety, soundness, and fairness of the banking system.

"We have taken a careful and cautious approach to crypto," Hsu said.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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