US CFTC Chair: Blockchain Would Have Improved Regulator Response to 2008 Financial Crash

United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo says that blockchain technology would have allowed for a “far faster, better-informed, and more calibrated regulatory intervention” in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Giancarlo made his remarks during a speech —  entitled “The New Futurism: 21st Century Financial Markets, Technology and Regulation” —  which was delivered at the Commissione Nazionale per le Societa e la Borsa (CONSOB) in Rome, Italy on June 3.

Giancarlo devoted the first part of his speech to reflections on blockchain and the 2008 financial crisis — both in regard to the latter’s unfolding and aftermath. He noted his own vantage point at the time as a senior executive on Wall Street at GFI Group. GFI operated a trading platform listing credit default swaps, he noted, situating it at the very epicenter of systemic risk.

In his comments, Giancarlo said that had regulators had access to blockchain-powered real-time trading ledgers of large Wall Street banks, they would have been spared the complex and cumbersome task of having to “assemble piecemeal data to recreate complex, individual trading portfolios” — with major implications for their handling of the crisis. He continued:

“What a difference it would have made a decade ago if blockchain technology on a private distributed ledger accessible to regulators had been the informational foundation of Wall Street’s derivatives exposures. At a minimum, it would certainly have allowed for far faster, better-informed, and more calibrated regulatory intervention instead of the disorganized response that unfortunately ensued.”

2008 regulators, the chairman underscored, would have significantly benefited from access to real-time distributed ledgers (DLT). The usefulness of DLT could be yet further boosted by implementing innovative cognitive computing capabilities, he said, in order to identify the “anomalies in market-wide trade activity and diverging counterparty exposures” that point to a heightened risk of bank failure.

Giancarlo also predicted that blockchain will have a “broad and lasting impact” across a range of applications, among them “payments, banking, securities settlement, title recording, cyber security and trade reporting and analysis.”

As reported, in a speech this spring, Giancarlo underscored that the under his aegis, the CFTC had “resisted calls to use our legal powers to suppress the development of crypto-assets.”