Consumer Group Warns Regulators of FTX CEO’s influence on Upcoming Cryptocurrency Regulations

Washington, D.C. – Today the Consumer Choice Center sent a letter to Senators and Representatives involved in crafting and approving future cryptocurrency regulations, warning them of the substance of regulatory recommendations made by FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, which he made in a recent company blog post.

Bankman-Fried has, in recent years, become a primary player in American domestic politics, pledging to spend up to $1 billion to fund the Democratic Party’s 2024 efforts, and a notable figure promoting cryptocurrency regulatory policy — much of which would benefit his company and properties.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, said “The reason for cautioning lawmakers is that the decentralization that powers the entire crypto ecosystem is at stake if they only hear from vested interests from oscillating agendas that won’t necessarily favor consumers.

“For those of us with a significant consumer interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — protocols designed to be decentralized — to see so much capital and control vested in one person who has a major influence in crafting legislation to impact millions is a warning sign,” added Ossowski.

“Users of decentralized technologies do not need an industry approach to regulation. Regulations exist to set the rules of the game, not to chart the leaders of the game. The main caution we invoke is that many proposed regulations aim to cement existing industry players and lockout innovative upstarts, while at the same time requiring the same restrictive rules that caused many people to explore cryptocurrencies in the first place.

“Recent comments and suggestions by FTX CEO and noted Democratic Party fundraiser Sam Bankman-Fried, especially, leave us concerned. If rules on crypto and its customers help solidify the financial portfolios, positions, and stock prices of only a select few companies, this will drive innovation away from American shores. While many proposals laid out by Mr. Bankman-Fried do address consumer needs — especially as it relates to hacks, scams, and protection of funds — his recommendations for a highly licensed regime on all sides of digital transactions, especially Decentralized Finance (DeFi), go against the spirit of why cryptocurrencies were created in the first place,” he said.

“Last year, my colleagues and I at the Consumer Choice Center released our Principles for Smart Crypto Regulationunderscoring the need for preventing fraud, pursuing technological neutrality, reasonably low taxation, and legal certainty and transparency, which we believe will be a better framework for future regulation.

“It would benefit us all if future rules help empower consumers and the firms they interact with, punish fraud, abuse, and insider trading, and provide financial transparency.  The whims of a select few industry players, however successful they may be, cannot be the guiding light for the future of decentralized digital money,” concluded Ossowski.

***CCC Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to yael@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Washington, Ottawa, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Trump Lays Foundation for Deregulation — Now He Should Cement It

How do you modernize the United States, make it open to innovation, free its entrepreneurs, and show that it is open for business?

For decades, conservatives have made the case for deregulation as a way to relieve burdensome D.C. regulations. During his rallies, President Trump vaunts the advantages of cutting red tape, showing how regulation increases compliance costs for businesses, and ultimately ends up costing consumers. Slowly but surely, he has put that rhetoric into action as well. But will it be enough?

In 2017, through Executive Order 13771, President Trump pushed an excellent rule through that demands agencies repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation. It also ensures that, as they do so, the total cost of the regulations does not increase. This order made cutting through the regulatory jungle of the swamp an institutional task.

New executive orders signed by President Trump on October 9 will also help fight the longstanding problem of regulatory overreach. At the signing ceremony for these new declarations, Trump lambasted the thousands of pages of guidance documents that have been issued by bureaucrats as a “back door for regulators to effectively change the law” without going through the full comment period and approval process. His new orders require agencies to treat the guidance as non-binding, make all guidance readily available to the public, and take public input in notice and comment periods.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt said that “these orders strike deep blows against an increasingly lawless, power-drunk administrative state.”

He’s right: it will certainly help the White House to clamp down on cases of abuse that receive enough public attention. However, what about the ones that don’t?

Unfortunately, this has all too often become the case. Power-hungry bureaucrats have become rather comfortable with quietly ignoring the Executive Orders currently on the books and getting away with it by operating in the shadows, outside of the public realm. For example, a number of conservative groups have drawn attention to a recent flagrant example of how bureaucrats have been caught disregarding Trump’s regulatory alleviation efforts.

In a coalition letter, thirteen conservative and free-market organizations, including Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, Americans for Limited Government, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, singled out Notice No. 176, a new rule proposed by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as emblematic for the above mentioned phenomenon.

As pointed out by the conservative groups, the new notice will more than double the amount of regulation set in the distilled spirits market. It seemingly comes in violation with not only Trump’s Executive Order 13771, but also Executive Order 12866 from the Clinton years, which requires a cost-benefit analysis for any new regulation that is economically significant.

TTB also frequently runs into the problem of overzealous guidance documents that Trump is aiming to fix. Nevertheless, this raises the question: what good will Trump’s new executive order be for bureaus and agencies that already have a history of ignoring his past ones?

Situations show that many bureaucrats, blinded by their lust for power, won’t respect executive orders just for the sake of it. A myriad of regulators will find the most convoluted ways of wiggling their way out of applying the actual law. And so, if the White House wants its admirable effort of deregulation to continue onwards, it needs to consider making personnel changes in cases when holdover bureaucrats disregard the laws that govern them.

In the case of TTB, it is quite simple. The current administrators are serving on an interim basis after an unexpected vacancy, and it would not require Senate approval to replace them. With other agencies that do require such approval, it will be more time-consuming and difficult but still nevertheless worth it. After all, it’s the only way to ensure that the anti-consumer red tape is ultimately lifted.

Bringing in people who believe in free enterprise as chief administrators will be the true key to reducing the federal government to a more adequate size. Previous administrations have shown the success a president can have when he makes sweeping changes to the people in bureaucracies.

The current administration is building a foundation of helpful deregulation, now it just needs to cement it in.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Open letter to the Romanian government/parliamentarians

Dear Member of Parliament/the government,

We address this letter to you with regard to the law for the amendment of certain regulations applicable to the tobacco products sector. The amendment would introduce a tobacco display ban at points of sale, bans of sponsorship as well as 1-2-1 marketing. We believe that the rationale for these changes is not conclusive, and would like to explain the reasons for our opposition.

For consumers, the implementation of a display ban reduces the amount of information available for tobacco. Cigarettes are a legal product in Romania, yet consumers would become unable to identify differences between brands and are unexposed to new upcoming products. Added to that, a display ban creates uncertainty on the legal market, as the practice of selling cigarettes “under the counter” is equally present in the case of retailers engaging in the sales of illicit cigarettes.

A radical crackdown on tobacco as a legal product reinforces the prevalence of illicit trade. In France, where constant price increases, smoking bans, heavy regulation on harm-reducing products, and plain packaging are the norm, this phenomenon is particularly noticeable. There are some 7.6 billion contraband and counterfeit cigarettes in circulation in France, making up 13.1% of total consumption.

Some of our members have reported to us to have received counterfeit products when purchasing cigarettes in UK corner stores, where similar legislation is already in effect. A display ban might make it easier for vendors of counterfeit cigarettes to hide their illicit products from consumers and law enforcement until the moment of sale.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that a decrease in smoking susceptibility does not necessarily equate to a decline in smoking rates, since this decrease also correlates with a number of other factors, on both the regulatory and the educational side, as well as innovations such as harm-reducing products. 

A negative side-effect of a display ban can be that smoking is perceived as an ominous and secretive act, which encourages certain youth to pick it up. In a comparable fashion, illicit narcotic substances are also purchased in large numbers by youths, without any advertising or display. We know through evidence in countries that have legalised or decriminalised these substances (particularly in the case of cannabis) that youth consumption rates normalise as the handling of the substance reaches social acceptance.

We believe that harm-reducing products such as e-cigarettes represent an innovative way towards smoking cessation. A permissive approach to e-cigarettes would show a positive impact. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), between 2011 and 2017, the number of UK smokers fell from 19.8% to 14.9%. At the same time, the number of e-cigarette users rose: almost half of these consumers use e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking.

Public health objectives can be attained through alternative products. This is why a simultaneous ban on e-cigarettes would be counterproductive. Display bans reduce the amount of information available to consumers, and mirrors the shadow economy, whose activities will be eased. Illicit tobacco trade is already a major reason for concern in Europe. Legislative acts such as these, so we fear, would worsen the situation.

We hope that our objections and concerns finds you well, and that we can work together towards achieving public health objectives in a manner that is reconcilable with consumer choice.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science. The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.

Proposed marijuana packaging rules threaten choice and safety

DIGITAL JOURNAL: According to David Clement, the North American affairs manager at Washington, D.C.-based lobby group, Consumer Choice Center, Health Canada’s proposed packaging guidelines could threaten the choice and safety of consumers because they make it more difficult to make an informed decision.

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