Jan 27, 2023
Regulator Says FTX’s LedgerX Auction Shows Need for More CFTC Clout on Acquisitions
(Bloomberg) -- A senior Commodity Futures Trading Commission official says the agency needs the power to approve or reject an unregulated company’s acquisition of a derivatives exchange.
The planned sale of crypto derivatives exchange LedgerX, a solvent piece of Sam Bankman-Fried’s collapsed FTX empire, has raised concerns about the CFTC’s authority over these acquisitions. LedgerX and other parts of the business are being auctioned off as part of the FTX bankruptcy proceedings.
CFTC Commissioner Kristin Johnson, a Democrat, is calling for Congress to give the regulator the power to nix or give the nod on such purchases. Otherwise, it’s left largely in the dark about companies that could easily enter US markets through buyouts, she said.
“It’s imperative that we as a regulator are in dialog and open communication with them,” Johnson said in an interview Friday on “Bloomberg Markets: The Close.” “As of now, we have no approval authority with respect to any element or the acquisition of LedgerX.”
Representatives of LedgerX and FTX didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Initial bids for LedgerX were due Jan. 25, with a final auction scheduled for March 7. Bidders haven’t been publicly disclosed.
CFTC regulations provide protections against issues such as commingling of assets — an allegation that’s part of the fraud case against Bankman-Fried. The guardrails helped LedgerX remain solvent.
The auction process involves a transfer of equity ownership, requiring only a heads-up to the agency within 10 days of completing a transaction. That calls into question whether the CFTC’s traditional procedures are a good fit for markets dominated by retail traders, Johnson said in a speech delivered Jan. 21 at a conference on digital assets at Duke University.
--With assistance from Allyson Versprille.
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