Crypto Business Braced for Federal Shutdown Uncertainty

The expiration of the federal government’s budget is imminent, with lawmakers showing no significant progress in enacting legislation to avert a potential shutdown. If Congress fails to reach a timely consensus, potential ramifications may arise for the cryptocurrency sector.

The probability of a government shutdown experienced an escalation on Friday afternoon as the House of Representatives encountered failure in its final endeavor to prolong the federal budget beyond Saturday. The bill aimed to extend the funding but could not secure sufficient support, resulting in a vote of 198-232 against its passage. The duration of the government shutdown in 2018 spanned 35 days.

According to Representative Blaine Luekemeyer, a government shutdown can incur a daily financial burden ranging from $1 billion to $2 billion for taxpayers.

A government shutdown entails the cessation of non-essential federal operations. During a shutdown, numerous federal agencies, such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission, experienced a reduction in personnel, resulting in a limited workforce focused solely on essential operations. Industry professionals and legal experts express a high degree of confidence that the current shortage of personnel will result in a lack of progress on any matters about digital assets.

Brian Evans, the CEO and founder of BDE Ventures, expressed skepticism regarding the ability of regulatory agencies to enforce crypto regulations during a potential government shutdown effectively.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rescheduled the Ark 21Shares Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) decision date from November 11 to January 10. As stated by SEC Chair Gary Gensler, a potential shutdown may lead to the temporary suspension of ongoing litigation. He further noted that the operational capacity of his staff would be significantly reduced during such a period.

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According to Gensler, the customary regulatory supervision we exercise over markets will be unattainable, as he stated in a recent interview on Bloomberg Television.

However, withdrawing the agency from the cryptocurrency sector may not necessarily be detrimental, as suggested by Evans.

“Considering the heightened regulatory scrutiny imposed by the SEC and other governing bodies on the cryptocurrency sector in recent times, a potential deceleration in such enforcement activities stemming from a shutdown would be perceived as a favorable respite for participants within the crypto-industry,” Evans expressed. 

According to political experts, a potential shutdown would likely result in a temporary cessation or, at the very least, a deceleration of the advancement of crypto legislation on Capitol Hill. Multiple bills about cryptocurrency have progressed through the markup phase. However, the likelihood of a floor vote occurring amidst a government shutdown is exceedingly low.

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Furthermore, the potential occurrence of a shutdown is expected to significantly impact the prioritization of matters within Congress, even following the resumption of regular operations. Consequently, resolving crypto-related issues may encounter additional setbacks and further delays. 

How About Cases That Are Still Being Discussed in Court?

According to federal court statements, they have indicated that their funding is projected to sustain operations until October 13, assuming a potential government shutdown persists for approximately two weeks.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has informed Blockworks that the impending criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried will proceed as scheduled, regardless of any potential shutdown extension beyond October 13.

The court will remain operational as its employees will be classified as essential personnel. Potential delays may arise from interdepartmental coordination, including but not limited to the Department of Justice and the US Attorney’s office, as indicated by a spokesperson from the Southern District of New York.

According to the representative, it is worth noting that jurors may also experience financial implications. In the event of a depletion of financial resources within the judiciary, the disbursement of jurors’ remuneration would be subject to a temporary deferral until a duly sanctioned budgetary allocation is approved. The compensation provided to jurors serving in US district courts consists of a daily remuneration of $40 and reimbursement of travel expenses.

The scheduled date for the jury selection process for the trial of Bankman-Fried is October 3. In the event of a government shutdown before that time, legal professionals may find it necessary to inquire about prospective jurors’ perspectives on deferred remuneration as part of the juror selection procedure.

According to Sam Dibble, a partner at Baker Botts, it is worth noting that criminal trials, as per constitutional provisions, are safeguarded and will persist even in a government shutdown. The pace of these trials may experience potential deceleration contingent upon the classification of essential personnel. Bankruptcy cases, on the other hand, present a distinct narrative.

Several prominent cryptocurrency companies, including FTX, Celsius, BlockFi, and Voyager, are involved in bankruptcy proceedings. 

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