The incoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler clearly stated that both Ethereum and XRP were non-compliant securities

In a recent seminar with Court Judge Sarah Netburn, Dugan Bliss, a senior adjudicator at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, argued that the agency has not yet made a formal position on the regulatory status of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Bitcoin looks more certain, however, the status of ETH is being disputed as is the case with XRP.

Ethereum could still be classified as a security

Bliss stated:

“So I want to make clear that this is my understanding of the current situation and I don’t want to be overly technical, but the SEC, itself, my understanding, it has not taken an official position. There is no action that it took to say Bitcoin is not a security, Ether is not a security.”

While former SEC chairman Jay Clayton has repeatedly stated that Bitcoin is not a security, there is less regulatory certainty over Ethereum.

Bill Hinman, former head of the SEC’s Corporate Finance Division, issued a statement of approval on the sale of Ether and non-securities offers just months before the end of his term in 2018.

Bliss stated that Hinman’s speech does not necessarily reflect the regulator’s stance on Ethereum:

“Now, there was a speech by a high-ranking person who said that to him that’s what it looked like but there has been no action letter, no enforcement action, none of the official ways in which the SEC takes a position on that matter that has occurred.”

However, the upcoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler has made it clear that both Ether and XRP are non-compliant securities in an interview with the New York Times:

“There is a strong case for both of them — but particularly Ripple — that they are non-compliant securities.”

Notably, Gensler confirmed that he sees Bitcoin as a commodity during his recent congressional hearing:

“So I think at the SEC it’s really to the extent somebody is offering an investment contract and security that’s under the SEC’s remit and exchanges that operate there. […] If not, it’s a commodity as Bitcoin has been deemed.”

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum pre-mined a significant portion of the money prior to holding the initial coin offering (ICO).

The Central Bank of Sweden Released First Study of Digital Currency

Sweden’s plans to create a central bank digital currency might be more complicated than initially thought according to a new study published by the nation’s central bank. It estimated that the Scandinavian country could delay the release of the e-krona until 2026.

How Does a Cashless Future Look Like?

The Riksbank published the results of the first phase of a pilot project exploring an eventual post-cash era and its consequences. The simulation showed that the rapid speed at which cash is disappearing presents ”potential problems.” However, a digital currency under the control of a central bank has the ability to address them.

The project is colossal, and Sweden’s central bank, which is the oldest one in the world, keeps delaying the timeframe for completing it. Initially, the institution announced it will be ready with the task and move ahead with the e-krona by 2018.

The Riksbank now indicated the current pilot project won’t see the light of day before next year. Some more pessimistic projections, though, stretched the timeframe until the end of 2026.

Mithra Sundberg, who leads the Riksbank project in Stockholm, said that it’s vital to avoid settling on the technology before realizing precisely what the digital currency needs to do. The bank indicated it’s not replacing cash and moving forward with the task will most likely require a new legal framework before releasing it.

In the meantime, the largest economy on the Scandinavian peninsula is proud to be one of the smallest users of cash in the world. During the pandemic, cash usage in the country was at its lowest level ever. According to Riksbank’s research, less than one-tenth of all payments in the county are made in cash.

The Controversy From Other Countries

Norway, Sweden’s neighboring country and another mainly cashless nation, also weighed in on the CBDC topic. However, its central bank said there’s ”no acute need” to introduce digital currency yet.

Other countries also spoke about being a first-mover in the field of digital currency. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently opined that there is no need to force the process. He noted that the US would ”rather be right than first”.

Sundberg noted that Sweden’s e-krona project still needs to explore the monetary policy consequence of such a transformation. But her team had ”looked at the technical possibilities of being able to charge interest.”

Meanwhile, the Riksbank has focused on a so-called two-tier model. This system will be responsible for the circulation and redemption of CBDC. Michael Lindgren, the technical project manager at the entity, mentioned that this model will allow direct contact between the so-called participants, such as banks or payment firms, and the end-users.

BP looks set to return more money to shareholders as it beats expectations

Oil major BP has said that it expects to start buying back its own shares again, after hitting its targets for reducing its debt load earlier than anticipated.

“We are pleased to announce that we now expect to have reached our $35bn net debt target during the first quarter 2021,” said BP’s chief executive, Bernard Looney. “This is a result of earlier than anticipated delivery of disposal proceeds combined with very strong business performance.”

Net debt at the end of 2020 was $38.9bn, meaning that BP has sliced nearly $4bn off its debt pile in the past three months.

The group will update with more detail when it reports on its first quarter results at the end of this month (27 April). For now, BP noted that it is committed to “returning at least 60% of surplus cash flow to shareholders by way of share buybacks, subject to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating.”

So why has net debt declined so rapidly? BP made more money from selling assets than it had expected. Deals included the sale of a petrochemicals business to global chemical giant Ineos, the sale of a stake in software group Palantir, and the raising of more than $2.4bn from the sale of an Omani gas development. As a result, the group now expects sales proceeds to hit the upper range of its earlier $4bn to$6bn estimate.

The group also benefited from the strong rebound in the oil price earlier this year.

What does this mean for your portfolio?

BP’s share price cheered the unexpectedly positive announcement, gaining around 3% to trade at around 300p a share.

As Mark Nelson of Killik notes, the shares still look reasonably priced “on a price to December 2021 earnings ratio of 11.3 times” plus “a prospective dividend yield of 5.3%”. Meanwhile AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson reckons that the share buybacks raise the “prospect of more generous returns to shareholders”.

Long story short, if you hold BP already – and we’ve been pretty positive on oil stocks so a lot of you probably do – this is another reason to hang on. And even if BP isn’t your preferred play, we’d suggest having some exposure to the sector – fossil fuels will be around for a while longer and the market still doesn’t look to have priced in all of the rebound potential from the Covid-19 lockdowns.