Robinhood CEO says SEC unwilling to facilitate crypto industry despite ‘good faith’

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev expressed serious concerns about restrictions on crypto accessibility for Americans and criticized the SEC for its “regulation by enforcement” approach to the industry.

Tenev made the statement during a CNBC interview on May 9, where he also discussed the significant increase in crypto trading on the platform and the SEC’s recent Wells Notice against the company’s crypto unit claiming to sell unregistered securities.

Regulatory hurdles

Robinhood’s crypto trading volumes rose 224% in the first quarter. Despite this growth, Tenev announced that the company’s discussions with the SEC had stalled after 16 meetings without any progress as the regulator failed to conduct a productive debate.

Tenev explained during the interview:

“We attempted to create a so-called special purpose broker-dealer for trading crypto assets… Unfortunately, a clear path forward with the SEC never emerged, and they have not reciprocated our efforts.”

The failed discussions ultimately resulted in the SEC issuing a Wells Notice against the company, indicating possible enforcement actions for alleged violations of securities laws.

Tenev expressed disappointment over the SEC’s decision to halt discussions and highlighted the regulator’s preference for “regulation by enforcement” rather than adjusting its rules to facilitate the developing crypto industry.

He called for regulatory changes to allow brokers to list digital assets, a move he said the SEC is currently reluctant to take.

Tenev added that the SEC has the ability to change the regulatory framework for crypto, but the regulator appears to have no intention of doing so.

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Importance of access

Robinhood’s CEO framed the situation as a broader consumer rights issue and emphasized the importance of crypto and the need for Americans to have unfettered access to it.

Tenev said the company does not agree with keeping Americans out of the crypto industry, especially as it becomes “increasingly important.”

The Wells Notice against Robinhood marks an important moment in the broader discussion about how financial regulators should manage the growing crypto market.

The conflict with the SEC puts Robinhood at the center of a critical debate over the future of crypto regulation and the role of traditional financial supervision in an increasingly digital economy.

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