Journal #49: ALTERNATIVE CAPITAL MARKETS

U.S LAW : CRYPTO IS MONEY, PROPERTY, A COMMODITY, AND A SECURITY, ALL AT THE SAME TIME

  • Published: 29 April 2019

CAROL R. GOFORTH | Clayton N. Little Professor of Law, University of Arkansas

The first crypto assets were all designed as replacements for fiat currency, and as such the label ‘cryptocurrency’ made sense. That singular word accurately described bitcoin and all of the early altcoins. However, as innovators have developed additional functionality for crypto, it no longer makes sense to assume that all crypto are the same. Nonetheless, regulatory authorities in the U.S. continue to lump them together. 

That does not, however, mean that the various agencies are in agreement about how to classify crypto. In an effort to fit crypto assets into existing regulations, crypto in the U.S. is being simultaneously treated as money, property, a commodity, and a security. This has led to conflicting and overlapping regulations, which are not likely to be harmonized unless and until regulators accept that not all crypto are the same, and that they should not all be regulated monolithically.