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SEC is short staffed, needs more help to police crypto, China-linked firms, Gensler says


U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler testifies before a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversight hearing on the SEC on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2021.

Reuters Thousands upon thousands of American institutions struggle to maintain smooth operations with a small staff.| Reuters

Thousands of American institutions are struggling to keep business running smoothly with limited staff in the Covid-19 era.

This includes Wall Street’s most important regulator, The Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chairman Gary Gensler said Wednesday that the SEC is trying to juggle an unprecedented list of financial challenges with a smaller staff.

“We are short-staffed,” Gensler told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” Although it might be strange to admit that, Gensler said this about a 4,400-strong agency with dedicated personnel working remotely during the pandemic. That’s still 4% to 55% more than the five-years ago.

We have a IPO boom, a SPAC boom and cryptocurrencies to handle. “We have the same issues that were discussed earlier regarding China,” he said. “I would like at least to get back to 2016 levels, and I believe we should be probably 5% to 10% bigger than we are now.”

Gensler, who took over as SEC chief earlier this year, testified before Senate lawmakers on Tuesday that he needs “a lot more people” to deal with some 6,000 new digital assets. According to Gensler, the regulator works to ensure that investors have the freedom to use their own money while complying with long-standing laws that requires the SEC detect fraud in wide range of assets.

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“Investors get to decide what to invest in as long as companies make full and fair disclosures. “Those laws have a broad definition for what constitutes a security,” said he. “Cryptocurrencies have come along, I think the laws are clear – the case law, the Supreme Court’s weighed in on this multiple times – that many of these tokens do come under the securities law.”

SEC regulators go through an avalanche of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets in order to decide which ones are securities. They are under the oversight of the agency.

Gensler stated that his team was too small to investigate fraudulent Chinese-linked businesses, manage those seeking to enter the public markets, and determine whether there is a need to tighten up on order flow payments.

Gensler’s appeals for a bigger staff – and budget – mirror more urgent pleas from the Internal Revenue Service, the division of the Treasury Department responsible for collecting federal taxes.

Mark Mazur, the Deputy Assistant Treasury secretary told lawmakers that budget cuts had made it difficult for the department’s regular audits to prove tax evasion or other fraud.

The IRS was forced to trim 33,378 full-time positions in fiscal 2010, 2020 due to budget cuts. This includes a large number of tax enforcement and service staff.