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CFTC says cryptocurrency ether is a commodity, and ether futures are next

Last December, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a public call for feedback to “better inform the Commission’s understanding” of the Ethereum network and the cryptocurrency ether.

Now CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert, who just took over the role in July, has come to a decision on its status. Tarbert believes ether (ETH) is a commodity, and thus falls under the jurisdiction of the CFTC. He also anticipates ether futures trading on U.S. markets in the near future.

“We've been very clear on bitcoin: bitcoin is a commodity. We haven't said anything about ether—until now,” Tarbert said on stage at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit in New York City on Thursday. “It is my view as chairman of the CFTC that ether is a commodity.”

Tarbert agrees with the SEC’s previous guidance that bitcoin and ether are not securities. And he says the CFTC is working with the SEC on these issues.

The CFTC first stated that it views “bitcoin and other virtual currencies” as commodities back in 2015 (long before the SEC did), buried in a filing when it brought charges against a company called Coinflip. But this is the first time the CFTC has given guidance on ether.

Tarbert acknowledges “ambiguity in the market” on the status of many coins, but says that ultimately “similar digital assets should be treated similarly.”

[Read more: What is Ethereum, what is ether?]

Perhaps most interestingly, Tarbert says that “forked” assets—cryptocurrencies like bitcoin cash (BCH) or bitcoin gold (BTG), coins created via forks from the original underlying blockchain—should be treated by regulators the same as the original asset. In other words, the CFTC’s classification of each coin depends on how the coin was created.

“It stands to reason that similarly assets should be treated similarly. If the underlying asset, the original digital asset, hasn’t been determined to be a security and is therefore a commodity, most likely the forked a...

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