Report: LedgerX Claims Ex-CFTC Chairman Stalled Approvals Due to Personal Bias

Cryptocurrency derivatives firm LedgerX alleges that former United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman Christopher Giancarlo obstructed the approval of its amended Derivatives Clearing Organization (DCO) registration because of personal bias against the firm’s CEO Paul Chou.

As Industry news outlet Coindesk reported on Sept. 28, LedgerX made the allegations in two letters obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The first letter — dated July 3 — states:

“We have strong reason to believe that this unreasonable delay that is in clear violation of the Commodity Exchange Act is related to the Chairman’s animus towards a blog post written by our CEO.”

Preferential treatment

Per the report, while Giancarlo did not answer the outlet’s request for comment, Chou confirmed that the letters are real, accurate and are only some of the messages sent by the firm to the CFTC. LedgerX claims that in January Giancarlo called one of its board members, explaining:

“[Giancarlo] told him that he was going to make sure our DCO order was revoked within two weeks, due to a blog post written by myself the previous year implying that preferential treatment was being given to larger companies so he could ‘cement his legacy.’ This refers to the ICE / Bakkt approval, which was running into issues that were frustrating the chairman.”

While the topics in the letter are quoted, it is unclear which blog post exactly he refers to.

Auditors “never seen this kind of thing before”

Per the outlet’s report, LedgerX was asked by the CFTC to acquire insurance and conduct a SOC 1 Type 2 audit. Furthermore, the company claims that one of the CFTC staffers tried to interfere with LedgerX’s audit. The company also reportedly notes that some auditors were “saying they had never seen this kind of thing before.” Chou claims that he later received apologies:

“Previous chairman wanted to revoke LX license bc Bakkt efforts not moving along. Having no legitimate reason to revoke our license, staff resorted to contacting our independent auditors to tamper with audit to give commission reason to revoke license. Staff admitted & apologized.”

In the second letter, dated July 11, the firm also notes that its application has been pending for nearly 250 days — now it is over 300. Per the report, the CFTC has now has 180 days to approve or deny an application under federal laws.

Reliance on the direct competitor

The letters also note that the CFTC’s swap data repository requirements force LedgerX to report to the Intercontinental Exchange’s ICE Trade Vault, and the latter company has already launched its own competing service — Bakkt. In the July 3 letter, LedgerX claims to have an audio recording of a call with ICE, adding:

“Later, we have on voice recording, when ICE staffers thought they had muted their side, that they were instructed to delay support for our SDR reporting so that we could not start trading — something we consider incredibly anticompetitive. We filed a formal complaint regarding this anti-competitive aspect which was not answered at all. A division head later admitted, in person, to our COO that I was correct in stating that certain entities were being preferentially treated by the Chariman’s office.”

Lastly, Chou also told the outlet that he has been excluded from the CFTC’s Technology Advisory Committee. He said:

“They didn’t tell me why but I think it’s pretty obvious why they did it. [...] One of the issues they were going to talk about… was custody and LedgerX is essentially the only member that does custody right now so we were about to send Juthica.”

As Cointelegraph reported at the end of July, the CFTC has reportedly confirmed that LedgerX’s physically-settled bitcoin futures product has not yet been approved by the Commission.