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US President Biden Vetoes SAB 121 Repeal, Upholding SEC’s Crypto Outreach

Highlights:

  • President Biden vetoed a bill to overturn the SEC’s SAB 121, emphasizing consumer and investor protection.
  • SAB 121 mandates financial institutions to record crypto assets as liabilities, facing opposition but defended by the SEC.
  • Overturning the veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses, reflecting the ongoing regulatory tension in the crypto industry.

On May 31, United States President Joe Biden vetoed H.J. Res. 109, a resolution aimed at disapproving the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 121 (SAB 121). The controversial decision sparked immediate criticism from the crypto industry.

SAB 121 mandates that financial institutions and firms responsible for safeguarding customer digital assets must consolidate these assets on their balance sheets and provide specific disclosures. In a letter addressed to the House of Representatives in America, Biden emphasized that he wouldn’t back any actions that ‘endanger the welfare of consumers and investors.’ 

He argued that abolishing SAB 121 would restrict the SEC’s ability to establish appropriate protective measures. Additionally, it could hinder the SEC’s capacity to address future issues, potentially weakening its broader powers in accounting practices.

US President Biden Vetoes SAB 121 Repeal
Biden’s letter addressed to the House of Representatives. Source: The White House

Lawmakers and Crypto Community Make Positions Clear

Earlier this month, the entire House and Senate voted in favor of a measure to repeal SAB 121. The House previously approved the measure with a 228-182 vote, garnering support mainly from Republicans, although 21 Democrats also joined. The Senate voted 60 to 38 in favor of the measure, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voting in favor of the measure. However, overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority from both the House and the Senate.

Biden’s Stance on Crypto Regulation

President Biden’s veto reflects his administration’s stance on protecting financial stability and investor interests. The White House released a statement emphasizing the importance of comprehensive regulatory frameworks for the burgeoning crypto market. “Limiting the SEC’s ability to build crypto regulatory frameworks could pose major risks to financial stability,” Biden asserted.

The vetoed bill, supported by a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate, aimed to rescind SAB 121. This bulletin requires financial institutions holding crypto for customers to record these assets as liabilities on their balance sheets. Critics argue that this makes it difficult for banks to offer custodial services for digital assets.

Veto Plan

President Biden had previously indicated his intention to veto the measure in a “statement of administration policy” issued by the White House last month. The White House expressed concern that restricting the SEC’s capability to uphold a comprehensive and effective financial regulatory framework for crypto-assets could introduce significant financial instability and market uncertainty.

On Friday, Biden stated:

“My Administration will not support measures that jeopardize the well-being of consumers and investors. Appropriate guardrails that protect consumers and investors are necessary to harness the potential benefits and opportunities of crypto-asset innovation.”

Senator Lummis Urged Biden Not to Veto SAB 121

On May 30, Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis sent a letter to Biden imploring him not to veto the recent congressional repeal of SAB-121. The pro-crypto senator highlighted the disagreement surrounding SAB-121 and criticized the SEC’s handling of the guidance, labeling it as inappropriate. She also noted the dubious nature under which the SEC disclosed the guidance.

Senator Lummis Urged Biden Not to Veto SAB 121
Senator Lummis’ letter to Biden. Source: US Senate docs

Read More: Former Bitcoin Skeptic Donald Trump Vows To Support Crypto Companies

SEC’s Role in Crypto Oversight

SAB 121, introduced by the SEC, has been a point of contention within the crypto industry. Many believe this guidance restricts financial institutions’ ability to manage crypto assets effectively. However, the SEC defends SAB 121 as “non-binding staff guidance” that enhances transparency and investor protection. 

An SEC spokesperson highlighted the risks associated with insufficient disclosure of crypto holdings, stating, “These disclosures provide investors important insight into the level of risk taken by crypto custodians.”

Crypto Community Voices Frustrations Over Decision

The decision sparked frustration within the broader crypto community, evident on social media platforms. They argued that it stifles innovation and hinders the industry’s progress during a critical period. In a May 31 post, Digital Chamber chief policy officer Cody Carbone said the decision is a “slap in the face to innovation and financial freedom.”

Moreover, the Blockchain Association, a crypto advocacy group, expressed disappointment with the administration’s decision to override bipartisan majorities.

Political Implications and Industry Reactions

The repeal effort saw significant support in Congress, with the House passing the measure with a 228-182 vote and the Senate approving it 60-38. Despite bipartisan backing, Biden’s veto maintains the status quo, reinforcing the SEC’s authority over crypto regulations.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse expressed his disappointment with the veto, urging the administration to reconsider its stance. “If the Biden administration is actually serious about a shift… the single most important thing they can do is demand the resignation of Gary Gensler,” Garlinghouse stated.

Challenges Ahead for Lawmakers

Overturning Biden’s veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, a challenging feat given the current political landscape. The administration’s decision aligns with Biden’s previous comments on ensuring robust regulatory frameworks for the crypto industry. “Appropriate guardrails that protect consumers and investors are necessary to harness the potential benefits and opportunities of crypto-asset innovation,” Biden reiterated.

The controversy surrounding SAB 121 highlights the ongoing debate over the best approach to regulating the fast-growing crypto market. While some lawmakers and industry players argue for more lenient regulations to foster innovation, the Biden administration maintains strict oversight to prevent financial instability and protect investors.

Disclaimer: Cryptocurrency is a high-risk asset class. This article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute investment advice. You could lose all of your capital.

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