SEC Doubles Cyber and Crypto Assets Team

A leading US regulator has bulked up its in-house cryptocurrency and cybersecurity skills in a bid to bolster investor confidence and improve the transparency of listed companies.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it added 20 additional positions to its newly renamed Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit. The function, previously known as the Cyber Unit, sits in the Division of Enforcement and will now grow to 50 dedicated positions.

The SEC touted the success of the unit so far, claiming it had managed to bring over 80 enforcement actions since 2017 related to fraudulent and unregistered crypto assets. That reportedly saved investors and other stakeholders more than $2bn.

However, at the same time, it recognized the growing threat to investors from scams involving NFTs, crypto assets and exchanges, lending and staking products, decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms and stablecoins.

The bulked-up enforcement team will include extra supervisors, investigative staff attorneys, trial counsels and fraud analysts in the SEC’s Washington DC HQ and regional offices.

According to SEC chair, Gary Gensler, they will enhance efforts to “police wrongdoing in the crypto markets while continuing to identify disclosure and controls issues with respect to cybersecurity.”

Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, argued that retail investors had born the brunt of illegal activity in the fast-evolving crypto space.

“Meanwhile, cyber-related threats continue to pose existential risks to our financial markets and participants,” he added. “The bolstered Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit will be at the forefront of protecting investors and ensuring fair and orderly markets in the face of these critical challenges.”

Investment fraud was the second highest-grossing cybercrime type of 2021, costing victims almost $1.5bn in cases reported to the FBI.

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