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SEC Commissioner Defends Bitcoin Expert Against Union Director’s Verbal Assault

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM

A regulator at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rebuked a top union official for denigrating a bitcoin expert at a recent public meeting.

This eyebrow-raising event occurred earlier this week, when SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar scolded Damon Silvers, the AFL-CIO’s policy director, for his aggressive posture in a recent meeting of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee.

“This committee is not a Hyde Park soapbox for demagoguery and tub thumping,” Piwowar stated at the committee’s December meeting in a thinly-veiled allusion to Silvers’ conduct. “Nor is it an inquisitorial star chamber.”

The rebuke hearkened back to the committee’s October session when Silvers — head of the most powerful trade union federation in the U.S. — railed against bitcoin and directed sharp criticisms toward at least one panelist who was representing the blockchain industry.

“At the October meeting, Mr. Silvers scolded a committee witness, Adam Ludwin, who spoke about bitcoin and blockchain technology. Mr. Silvers said the bitcoin market has become a speculative bubble and demanded to know why the cryptocurrency is not considered an investment contract that the SEC regulates,” according to a report from The Wall Street Journal’s Dave Michaels .

Ludwin is the chief executive officer of Chain, an enterprise blockchain development firm based out of San Francisco. He is an outspoken proponent of the cryptocurrency asset class, and his “Letter to Jamie Dimon” was widely-hailed within the community for its nuanced analysis of the industry and its future.

Ludwin, along with other panelists, had been invited to discuss blockchain technology and its potential impacts on the securities industry.

“I don’t want to hear marketing language,” Silvers said in response to Ludwin’s statement. “I am deeply, deeply frustrated with a conversation that seems to evade the law. … I am not interested in the slightest in parables or technical jargon. I am interested in law, and you have not said a single thing that is legally relevant.”

Despite this claim, however, Bloomberg reports that — during the same meeting — Silvers also repeatedly cut off panelist Nancy Liao, the executive director of the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law.

One should avoid reading too much into the incident because Republicans and union officials rarely see eye-to-eye. Consequently, it would not be surprising if Silvers and Piwowar have had spats before.

Nevertheless, it’s a testament to the emergence of the cryptocurrency industry that, over time, the sort of posture exhibited by Silvers in response to information about bitcoin and blockchain technology, is gradually becoming the exception — not the rule.