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Crypto Platforms Ask for Rules But Have a Favorite Watchdog

As the SEC signals that it wants more oversight of digital asset markets, the industry makes it clear it prefers to be supervised by the smaller CFTC.

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Illustration: Nichole Shinn for Bloomberg Businessweek

It was a classic Washington networking party. Sam Bankman-Fried, the co-founder and chief executive officer of FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto trading platforms, held court on a February evening in a private room at the Park Hyatt hotel on the edge of Georgetown. Drinks flowed from an open bar, and hors d’oeuvres were served to the clutch of congressional aides, financial lobbyists, and former regulators. The goal of Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old billionaire, was to showcase his new lobbying operation—and to persuade influential Washingtonians that crypto needs more regulation.

It may seem strange that a crypto magnate is seeking federal oversight. But as lawmakers and bureaucrats grapple with how to police a fast-growing and risky $2 trillion market, new rules seem inevitable. In March, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to work out policies on crypto. Bankman-Fried, whose company last year bought the naming rights to the Miami Heat’s basketball arena, is pushing his own ideas of what regulation ought to look like, as well as who his main watchdog should be.