'Let Crypto Build,' Says Congressman Tom Emmer

The latest "crypto winter" following the collapse of Terra/LunaLUNA and withdrawals from other stablecoins has reignited attacks against the web3 community on the basis of insider trading and financial instability.

The virtual attacks have led federal regulators, including Vice Chair Lael Brainard of the Federal Reserve, to call for the development of central bank digital currencies. But these shortcomings of crypto should be paired with the shortcoming of fiat currencies as well, recognizing that plenty of illicit laundering and insider trading takes place with the dollar, too.

Despite the recent attacks on crypto, the community is growing. Gary Vaynerchuk convened a diverse and energetic group of people, including celebrities like Eva Longoria and Snoop Dogg, at the inaugural VeeCon 2022, hosted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 19 to 22.

Congressman Tom Emmer at Blockchain Summit
Congressman Tom Emmer, R-MN, discussed the challenges and pitfalls of crypto that may lay ahead because of the specter of federal regulation and intervention while attending the DC Blockchain Summit on May 24, 2022. Courtesy of Christos Makridis via Zenger

Also in attendance was Congressman Tom Emmer, R-MN, who discussed the challenges and pitfalls of crypto that may lay ahead because of the specter of federal regulation and intervention.

Referencing the recent deterioration of Terra/Luna, Emmer said: "I am worried about us rushing to solve a problem that too many people in Congress do not understand," Emmer said. In particular, policymakers have been debating about how to define a high-quality liquid asset, but the risk is overregulating it and stifling competition and creating new forms of fragility.

"I am concerned that our government would define that as solely U.S. dollars," he said.

The solution, according to Emmer, is not more regulation, but rather a taxonomy by Congress that establishes definitions and creates a framework for building in web3. There is no debate that there is a role for federal policy — markets require a framework, or "rules of the game," to function properly. But, "it needs to be a light touch regulatory environment," Emmer said. "We cannot try and put crypto into a framework that is nearly 100 years old. Many regulators are trying to do just that by defining securities according to the three features of the 'Howey test' established in 1933 as a result of the Supreme Court case."

According to the Howey test, a security has three defining features: (1) there is an investment of money, (2) there is a common enterprise, and (3) there is a reasonable expectation of profits derived from the efforts of others. Under a strict interpretation, houses would be considered a security for consumers: besides the obvious investment of money, they are generally a common enterprise (i.e., a family pooling resources together) and the value of the house appreciates in part due to national or local economic and demographic trends.

Eva Longoria at VeeCon 2022
Eva Longoria speaks onstage about Empowering Women in Web 3 during VeeCon 2022 on May 21, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images via Zenger

Consider the emergence of non-fungible tokens (NFTs); many NFTs appreciate in value, in part because of the robust community that forms around them. But if such a strict – and outdated – interpretation of securities was applied, then millions of lives would change overnight: home ownership could fall and the emerging creator economy that has been growing rapidly as of late through the sales of NFTs would be discouraged from ever starting creative projects.

Worse yet, creators would flee the U.S. and build elsewhere. "They will shift activities offshore because they have to," Emmer said. "We [Congress] need to be the advocates and define what fits the definition of currency, commodity, security... if we do that, we can give specific cowboys to regulators."

Absent a framework, federal regulators risk taking an ad hoc approach to governing crypto and web3, disrupting the lives of builders and society in the process.

Ultimately, the debate about the future of web3 regulation is a question of choice and personal responsibility. "I trust myself more to make my own mistakes, fail, figure it out, and climb back to the top of the hill, rather than having my government say 'you've got to be careful that someone might take advantage of you, so we're never going to give you the opportunity to fail or succeed,'" Emmer said.

Senators Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, and Kirsten Gillibrand,D-NY, introduced a bill that outlined new comprehensive regulation for cryptocurrencies, including a tax exemption on transactions under $200 and a clearer definition on crypto securities versus crypto commodities. The bill aims to "provide clarity to both industry and regulators, while also maintaining the flexibility to account for the ongoing evolution of the digital assets market."

The proposed legislation, although an important step towards greater regulatory clarity, may also open the door to those looking for opportunities to expand control over the web3 landscape.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.