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CFTC Commissioner Describes Global Promise and Dangers of Blockchain

CFTC Commissioner Rostin Behnam encouraged a “multi-stakeholder approach” to blockchain technology to prevent it from becoming a tool of "repression and totalitarianism."

In remarks before the "Blockchain for Impact Global Summit" at United Nations Plaza, Mr. Behnam stated that while "[t]he new virtual world offers tantalizing new possibilities," it also poses "potentially powerful dangers." He warned that many of the societal issues that blockchain can remedy, such as corruption, poverty, health care, and global hunger and food safety, are also opportunities for it to be abused. Mr. Behnam also asserted that blockchain could be used to reduce poverty internationally by bringing the "so-called 'unbanked'" onto the "virtual grid." He said the widespread use of cellphones can make it easier than ever to send money directly to people in need "without bribery, rake-offs, graft, and shakedowns." However, Mr. Behnam cautioned that if a kleptocracy controls the technology and distribution, it is able to abuse these same technologies to gain wealth at the expense of its citizens.

Because of the multi-faceted penetration of blockchain and financial technology, Mr. Behnam questioned whether the U.N. should assume a regulatory role. He identified recent efforts taken by the CFTC to engage with leading institutions and better understand emerging technologies, including through the LabCFTC initiative. Additionally, Mr. Behnam spoke of recent collaborations with other federal agencies to regulate and protect against virtual currency-related misconduct.

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