Coinbase app on the Appstore. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM Coinbase app on the Appstore. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Observers from nearly every corner of the digital-asset markets have asked, “When will clear regulations be passed in the United States, and who will enforce them?” On the first question, the digital-asset community has frequently complained that the only “regulation” to date has been by enforcement, giving crypto companies no advance warning of the applicable rules.

As to the second question, thus far, the U.S. Department of Justice has primarily handled criminal enforcement, while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—and, to a lesser extent, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)—have led civil enforcement. Recent events, however, suggest that the SEC and the CFTC are waging an intense battle for regulatory supremacy. It is not yet clear which agency will prevail, or whether they will find a third, cooperative path. But the regulatory battle was on full display in late July. After the SEC brought an enforcement action suggesting broad SEC jurisdiction with respect to digital assets, one CFTC commissioner responded with outrage, going as far as to suggest that the SEC’s actions exceeded the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

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