Ether (ETH) Is a Commodity, Says CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert

The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Heath Tarbert, has revealed he sees Ethereum’s ether as a commodity, just like bitcoin.

Tarbert’s words come at the Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit in New York this Thursday, where he stated:

We've been very clear on bitcoin: bitcoin is a commodity. We haven't said anything about ether—until now. It is my view as chairman of the CFTC that ether is a commodity.

He also anticipated the potential launch of ether derivatives on regulated exchanges. As covered, a CFTC insider said earlier this year ether futures could soon be approved by the regulator.

In December of last year the CFTC issued a “Request for Input” (RFI) on ether, the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, looking for “public comment and feedback” to better understand its technology.

During Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, Tarbert revealed he agrees with guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that detailed bitcoin and ether aren’t securities, and noted the CFTC is working with the SEC on these issues.

Tarbert acknowledged, however, there’s “ambiguity in the market” on the status of various cryptoassets, but believes “similar digital assets should be treated similarly.” Moreover, Tarbert said cryptocurrencies created through forks – like bitcoin cash (BCH) – should be treated by regulators just like the original asset.

If the underlying asset, the original digital asset, hasn’t been determined to be a security and is therefore a commodity, most likely the forked asset will be the same,” Tarbert said, “unless the fork itself raises some securities law issues under that classic Howey Test.

The ”Howey Test” is a test created thanks to a 1946 case involving the sale of shares in a citrus grove that the SEC uses to determine whether an asset is a security. When asked whether he believes the test is still relevant in 2019, he said he thinks “the analysis is pretty good” adding that it ultimately it answers the right questions.

Addressing cryptoasset sold via initial coin offerings (ICOs), Tarbert noted a cryptoasset can start off as a security and eventually become a commodity. He said:

You can have a situation where something in an initial coin offering is a security initially, but over time, it gets more decentralized, and there's a tangible value there, so you can have things that change back and forth.

Notably, the chairman of the CFTC addressed cryptocurrencies created through hard forks and issued via ICOs shortly after the IRS issued cryptocurrency tax guidance for the first time in five years, specifying that cryptos created from a fork are to be handled as “ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the new cryptocurrency when it is received.”

As covered, Tarbert’s words also come on the same day the SEC issued a 112-page order disapproving the proposed rule changed filed by NYSE Arca to list and trade shares of the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF Trust.

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