For Crypto, The Next New SEC Hire May Be More Important Than Chair Gensler

The listing slid quietly into the public last Thursday, but the new “Senior Officer-National Unit Chief (Crypto Asset & Cyber Unit)” role at the Securities and Exchange Commission could have huge ramifications in determining the future of cryptocurrency, NFTs and blockchain technology in the United States.

This role may replace Kristina Littman who the Wall Street Journal reports is leaving her leadership role in enforcement at the SEC in June.

The ad for the new role came in advance of yesterday’s SEC announcement by Chairman Gary Gensler that the enforcement division of the “Crypto Asset & Cyber Unit” (was “Cyber Unit”) will add 20 positions “for protecting investors in crypto markets and from cyber-related threats.” This will bring the unit to 50 positions according to the SEC release.

Influential responsibilities in the Unit Chief job listing include:

    • “…leading the Unit and providing overall strategic direction and management oversight of the Unit. The incumbent, in consultation with the Office of the Director of Enforcement, exercises delegated decision-making authority with respect to all operations and functions of the Unit.”
    • “Developing, conceiving, planning, and implementing policies and guidelines affecting broad, emerging, and/or critical Commission programs.”
    • “Serving as a primary Commission advisor on various programs and events. Counseling senior management staff and officials at multiple levels of the Commission…”
    • “Serving on inter-Commission, national, and/or international special working groups, task forces, or expert panels on special projects or studies critical to the resolution of far-reaching operating issues and problems.”

Aspiring legal eagles have until May 12 to apply for the role.

Ms. Littman, an Air Force Academy grad, will likely be missed at the SEC as her LinkedIn profile outlines an 11+ year career at the agency which included Unit Chief since 2019 and Special Advisor to the Chairman.

Given the critical role the Unit Chief plays, Congress may watch the recruiting process closely, too.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R, MN) tweeted yesterday in response to the SEC’s 20 new announced enforcement hires: “I wonder how many taxpayer dollars are being wasted in @GaryGensler’s personal crusade against the crypto industry?”

Rep. Patrick McHenry echoed similar sentiments tweeting, “The regulation by enforcement at @GaryGensler‘s SEC is stifling American innovation. If the U.S. wants to lead the deployment of the next generation of internet technology, we must provide clear, thoughtful rules of the road for the digital asset ecosystem.”

And SEC commissioner Hester Peirce, who is known for her support of innovation in the blockchain industry, pulled no punches in a tweet: “The SEC is a regulatory agency with an enforcement division, not an enforcement agency. Why are we leading with enforcement in crypto?” Incidentally, she’s looking to hire, too.

The new Unit Chief role pays a max of $275,867 per year. After a few years, the opportunity in the private sector for this hire will likely be huge.