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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce isn’t yet “willing to make a blanket statement that everything other than Bitcoin is a security,” she said on Wednesday at the Medici conference in Los Angeles.

Why it matters: SEC chairman Jay Clayton and Commissioner Mike Piowar have both said publicly they've yet to see any initial coin offerings that don't look like a security.

Peirce’s view on the topic are nuanced, acknowledging that “there’s incredible diversity in what’s out there,” including tokens that are like securities, money, and other things.

  • She raised the possibility that some tokens’ function can change over time. While they may be like securities when first issued (say, to fund a project), they may take on a different function later (say, once their underlying network is operational).
  • She also admitted that “if the promoter [of a token] is not involved anymore, to pursue that promoter doesn’t make sense”—and important aspect to consider given that many projects are designed to be decentralized and not depend on their original leader.

Peirce said she hopes further guidance will come from the SEC's corporation finance division rather than its enforcement unit, which has been increasingly going after ICO fraudsters.

  • She encouraged entrepreneurs creating and developing digital tokens to engage with the corporation finance division and share how they’re building these technologies. “I want us to be able to play that role but we can’t do that unless you tell us what you’re actually doing,” she said.

She also outlined a preference for a more hands-off approach to helping financial entrepreneurs than some regulatory bodies’ use of sandboxes.

  • “On a beach, you have a life guard…. but she’s not sitting with the sand castle builders,” Peirce explained. Her concern is that regulators may get too involved in the development of new technology and steer it themselves.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.