The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has urged financial professionals to exercise enhanced scrutiny when recommending high-risk or complex products, including cryptocurrencies or “crypto asset securities.”
The SEC has called for financial professionals to adopt “enhanced scrutiny” when suggesting intricate or high-risk products, including cryptocurrencies or “crypto asset securities” as defined by the agency.
In a recent announcement, the SEC stressed the importance of finance professionals possessing a comprehensive understanding of the risks tied to specific investment products before presenting them to clients.
The SEC pointed out that certain products exhibit added complexities or risk elements, making it challenging for firms and financial specialists to fully grasp their terms, features, and associated risks.
As a result, it may be tough for them to determine if these products are in the best interest of retail investors.
Products that may necessitate enhanced scrutiny comprise inverse or leveraged exchange-traded products, margin-traded investments, derivatives, crypto asset securities, penny stocks, private placements, asset-backed securities, volatility-linked exchange-traded products, and reverse-convertible notes.
In practical terms, the SEC suggests that firms and financial professionals collect information about retail investors to establish whether a complex or high-risk product is appropriate for them.
This data may encompass the retail investor’s particular trading goal corresponding with the product’s description and their capacity to endure an elevated risk of financial loss.
However, possessing such a goal or capacity does not automatically indicate that the product serves the retail investor’s best interest.
Firms and financial professionals must maintain “a reasonable basis” to believe that, based on all pertinent facts and situations, the investment is in the retail investor’s best interest.
This recommendation comes after the SEC filed charges against crypto exchange Bittrex for purportedly violating securities laws, accusing the firm of amassing at least $1.3 billion in illicit revenue from 2017 to 2022.
During Gary Gensler’s tenure as the agency’s chair, the SEC has initiated approximately 1,500 enforcement actions, including those addressing noncompliance within the crypto sector.
The SEC’s strategy toward digital asset regulation has been criticized by the crypto industry. Kraken CEO Jesse Powell expressed that the regulator’s enforcement methodology “does not help the industry or regulators.”
Meanwhile, Coinbase’s chief legal officer, Paul Grewal, argued that the public shouldn’t be required to interpret federal court complaints to comprehend regulatory expectations.
While Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong declared that their interests align with the SEC’s, the company has been extending its operations outside the U.S. and recently secured a license from the Bermuda Monetary Authority.