Gary Gensler was confirmed as the new SEC chair by the U.S Senate on April 14, 2021. While Democrats, especially the progressive wing of the party, want to see Gensler tackle a range of issues related to inequality and climate change, the lion’s share of media attention has been focused on commentary and speculation regarding the SEC’s role in digital currencies and blockchain technology. Missing from much of the media coverage, however, is the extent to which Gensler has already vocalized his thoughts on crypto–as a professor at MIT.
In the fall of 2018, Gary Gensler taught a class at MIT called “Blockchain and Money.” The course was robust, offering a technical breakdown of cryptocurrency from the vantage point of institutional finance. What makes this head-spinning fact (SEC Chair and Crypto Professor) even more incredible is that the entire MIT course is available on YouTube in crystal clear HD. If someone in 2021 wants to learn about the functionality and technical framework of cryptographic technology, who better to teach them than the just-confirmed chair of the Securities and Exchanges Commission?
HEADLINE has reviewed hours of tape, parsing Gensler’s instruction at MIT for clues as to the direction he’ll steer the SEC’s relationship with the cryptographic industry. While this article is not an overly in-depth analysis of the new SEC chair, it will unpack Gensler’s worldview and color the commentary surrounding Bitcoin and the SEC.
Gary Gensler was Professor of the Practice of Global Economics and Management at MIT, as well as Co-Director of MIT’s Fintech@CSAIL and Senior Advisor to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative. He was also a heavyweight when it came to the practical and theoretical complexities of crypto mechanics, bringing a career’s worth of accumulated financial knowledge to bear while analyzing the underlying value of Bitcoin. Gensler taught “Blockchain and Money” with precision, charisma, and most importantly enthusiasm.
While the contents of “Blockchain and Money” were heavy with technical information, the mood in the classroom was considerably lighter. Gensler had a sense of humor, going as far as to open the very first class with a joke:
“If you have a desire to learn a little bit about blockchain and its intersection with the world of finance and money, and you’re looking for 15.s12, you’re in the right place. And if you’re here to not do that, and hang out and have a good time, I guess you’re still hopefully in the right place. Because we’re going to have some fun this semester.”
Provided below is a link to the first of Gensler’s lectures on blockchain at MIT.
So what does all of this mean? Why is Gary Gensler’s history as an MIT professor important? Because Gensler will be the first SEC chair with insider knowledge of the crypto space. Based on his class instruction and subsequent statements, it’s clear that the new SEC chair has a great deal of respect for financial innovation. As a professor of cryptocurrency, Gensler is essentially a Bitcoin insider, regardless of whether or not he holds the digital currency.
Critics will be quick to point out that Gensler pushed for crypto regulation during the ICO boom of 2017 and 2018. Gensler, they argue, is “no crypto enthusiast.” But historic statements made by the new SEC chair, such as this one reported by the Times, paint a different picture:
“While most blockchain experiments are in an early stage, Mr. Gensler said he had become convinced that blockchains could replace many of the middlemen in the financial industry.”
Also during his tenure at MIT, it was clear that he fully grasped the unique struggles facing millennials and later generations. Only time will tell how much of an impact The Crypto Professor will have on the SEC, it’s abundantly clear that Gensler has arrived. Joining him at the top is Hester Pierce, SEC commissioner and vocal proponent of blockchain innovation. Between the new SEC chair and SEC commissioner, the U.S. financial system could be poised for a major digital renaissance.