Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Heath Tarbert stepped down from the top role at the agency today, where he has served since 2019.

“Given the critical role the CFTC plays in the American economy, I believe each President should choose his or her own nominee for Chairman,” Tarbert, a Republican, wrote in his resignation letter. Democrat Rostin Behnam is serving as acting chairman until President Joe Biden selects a replacement.

Among cryptocurrency advocates, Tarbert is likely best known for calling Ethereum a commodity.

“We’ve been very clear on bitcoin: bitcoin is a commodity. We haven’t said anything about ether—until now,” he told Yahoo Finance in October 2019. “It is my view as chairman of the CFTC that ether is a commodity.”

Tarbert’s comments didn’t mean the CFTC had dibs on regulating Ether, however. As Compound Finance General Counsel Jake Chervinksy noted at the time, “Securities are a type of commodity. Financial instruments can be one, both, or neither. Not to mention that the SEC already said ETH isn’t a security last summer.”

Whereas commodities are tradable goods, such as gold and oil, securities are financial instruments people buy, such as stocks and bonds, on the presumption that they’ll increase in value. Cryptocurrencies can be both, but the specifics are still being hashed out among federal agencies. Therefore, in July 2020, under Tarbert’s leadership, the CFTC unveiled a four-year plan for regulating cryptocurrency assets.

Tarbert will stay have sway at the agency—he remains one of five commissioners, and his term doesn’t expire until April 2024.

 



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