The Securities and Exchange Commission is bolstering its unit tasked with protecting investors in crypto markets and from cyber-related threats, the agency announced Tuesday.
The newly renamed crypto assets and cyber unit, formerly the cyber unit, will grow to 50 dedicated positions, up from 30.
"The U.S. has the greatest capital markets because investors have faith in them, and as more investors access the crypto markets, it is increasingly important to dedicate more resources to protecting them," SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a news release. "By nearly doubling the size of this key unit, the SEC will be better equipped to police wrongdoing in the crypto markets while continuing to identify disclosure and controls issues with respect to cybersecurity."
The unit, within the SEC's enforcement division, has brought more than 80 enforcement actions related to fraudulent and unregistered crypto asset offerings and platforms since 2017, resulting in monetary relief totaling more than $2 billion, the SEC said.
In its expanded role, the unit will aim to protect investors in the crypto markets, with a focus on investigating securities law violations related to crypto asset offerings, exchanges, and lending and staking products; decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms; non-fungible tokens, or NFTs; and stablecoins, which are cryptocurrencies that set their values to other assets, such as the U.S. dollar.
"Crypto markets have exploded in recent years, with retail investors bearing the brunt of abuses in this space," said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC's enforcement division, in the news release. "Meanwhile, cyber-related threats continue to pose existential risks to our financial markets and participants. The bolstered crypto assets and cyber unit will be at the forefront of protecting investors and ensuring fair and orderly markets in the face of these critical challenges."
The unit's 20 additional positions will fortify the ranks of its supervisors, investigative staff attorneys, trial counsels and fraud analysts in the agency's Washington headquarters as well as several regional offices, the SEC said.
Mr. Gensler has said multiple times that there is not enough investor protection in the crypto finance, issuance, trading or lending area and has likened the cryptocurrency market to the Wild West.