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CFTC commissioner intends to use technology to update investor protection

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In order to mitigate the impact of financial fraud, Romero introduced the concept of the National Financial Fraud Registry, a centralized repository housing records of all financial fraud-related crimes and penalties. Christy Goldsmith Romero, Commissioner of the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has put forth a compelling recommendation for regulators to embrace technological advancements as a means of fortifying their protective measures. She has sounded a cautionary note, underscoring the potential adverse repercussions if they fail to do so, particularly for American investors. Romero delivered this proposition during her address at the annual gathering of the North American Securities Administrators Association in sunny San Diego, California. She underscored the gravity of the government’s need to keep pace with technological innovations, emphasizing its impact on the most vulnerable investors. In her own words: “As we, the regulators, deliberate on policy decisions concerning cutting-edge technology, it becomes imperative that we develop a firm grasp of this technology and its implications for the world of finance and jurisprudence.” Romero has undertaken the ambitious task of enhancing investor safeguards and oversight. To this end, she has appointed experts in fintech, responsible artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and cybersecurity to serve on the CFTC’s Technology Advisory Committee (TAC). The commissioner divulged that the TAC experts have been entrusted with the mission of identifying avenues for incorporating Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes into decentralized finance and cryptocurrency investment avenues. Additionally, the TAC’s mandate extends to the promotion of responsible artificial intelligence (AI) development. As per Romero: “Federal regulators have only just embarked on their journey into the realm of AI. A logical starting point is the establishment of governance protocols for making pivotal decisions that impact investors and markets.” Federal investigations in the cryptocurrency domain have evolved from primarily retroactive tracking of trade activities to monitoring activities on social media platforms such as X (formerly known as Twitter), Reddit, and Facebook. However, Romero has advocated for the utilization of specialized tools in these investigations: “Tracing funds, tracking cryptocurrencies, employing blockchain technology, leveraging link analysis, tapping into social media, and harnessing data analytics tools should all be part of the toolkit available to regulators.” Romero further stressed that the statements (tweets/posts) shared on social media platforms can serve as potent evidence of intent. These very platforms can also serve as channels through which regulators issue warnings about scams and extend protection to investors. To counteract the detrimental effects of financial fraud, Romero has advanced the concept of establishing the National Financial Fraud Registry, a centralized repository housing records of all financial fraud-related crimes and penalties. This registry would empower investors to conduct background checks for ongoing investigations or fines imposed on companies involved in fraud. Romero initially introduced the idea of this registry back in December 2019: “Upon its establishment, every federal agency would contribute its convictions, sentencing outcomes, civil penalties, and resolved enforcement actions. State and local agencies could join forces to create a truly comprehensive national fraud registry.” Romero envisions this all-encompassing platform as a powerful deterrent against financial fraud. Concluding her address, the CFTC commissioner emphasized that by working in synergy, federal and state authorities can enhance the safety of investors. In April, Romero called upon cryptocurrency companies to verify the digital identities of their users, contending that reducing anonymity in the cryptocurrency sphere could facilitate the management of associated risks. She added: “It is feasible for all cryptocurrency companies to distance themselves from mixers and anonymity-enhancing technologies while still responsibly safeguarding the financial privacy of their customers.” Romero strongly advocated for the verification of digital identities, urging both exchanges and decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms to take steps in this direction.

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