Beyond BitMEX: CFTC sets a new record for lawsuits in crypto this year

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, is having a banner year in crypto enforcement.

Per the commission’s annual review released on Tuesday, fiscal year 2020 featured seven monetary relief actions against firms engaged in illegal activity in crypto, which is a new record.

The review said: “In conjunction with the Division’s Digital Asset Task Force, the Commission brought a record setting seven cases involving digital assets.” These included charges against PanForex for offering leveraged trading to U.S. persons without registering in the U.S., as well as against Digital Platinum for classic fraud.

The CFTC is the U.S. federal commodities regulator, but really only involves itself in the spot market in cases of overt manipulation or deception. As its name suggests, it has a great deal more power in futures and derivatives markets for commodities, but the question of which cryptocurrencies fall into this category is still uncertain. Broadly, the commission has treated Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin as part of its purview, rather than as securities. 

Interestingly, fiscal year 2020 ended on Sept. 30. Likely the CFTC’s most bombastic action in recent memory, as far as the crypto community is concerned, was against BitMEX — which only happened on Oct. 1, and so did not factor into the report’s figures.

Cointelegraph has previously noted that a number of actions around the end of fiscal year 2020 may herald a new crackdown. Then again, government agencies peg their budgets and expenditures to the fiscal year, so Sept. 30 does end up being the epicenter of a great deal of action. 

The CFTC’s report also applauded its $920 million fine against J.P. Morgan for market manipulation and spoofing, the largest relief action in the commission’s history. 

Gary Gensler, formerly chair of the CFTC, seems set to take a high-level position within the Biden administration’s financial team. Gensler was known as being especially hawkish in relation to Wall Street, but after leaving the CFTC found himself teaching courses on blockchain at MIT.