SEC Inspectors Outline Crypto Examinations Playbook in Compliance Notice

Examiners at the U.S. government’s top securities watchdog outlined their framework for vetting digital asset investments in a compliance notice Friday.

Naming custody, record keeping, registration requirements and conflicts of interest protocols on their exhaustive list of focus areas, officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Division of Examinations reminded mainstream financial players like broker-dealers and investment advisors to tread carefully when bringing digital asset products into the traditional financial world.

The release, which did not appear to be targeted at any one event, nonetheless comes as ever more U.S. corporates grapple with how to handle their digital asset endeavors without stoking regulatory ire.

On one end of this spectrum is MicroStrategy’s ban on employees trading bitcoin ahead of potentially market-moving corporate buys. And on the other is Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who yesterday expressed hope that rumors are true the SEC is investigating his DOGE tweets, which tend to precede with price jumps.

SEC examiners framed the notice as a reminder of the novel risks associated with distributed ledger technologies and digital assets, and of the responsibilities market participants have to hedge those risks with thorough compliance frameworks.

Many of their focus examination points simply reapply traditional bookkeeping practices to crypto investments. But other examination areas appear more novel. For example, examinations could consider what controls an investment firm has placed on access to private cryptographic keys.