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Former Nasdaq CEO said regulators operate at a pace slower than ‘the speed of erosion’

Celia Wan

Former Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld said it was "frustrating" dealing with the glacial pace of Washington D.C. regulators during his tenure, a time Wall Street was looking to move faster with electronic trading.  

In a recent The Scoop podcast, Greifeld told The Block he was overwhelmed by the pace at which regulators operated, when he first took the helm at Nasdaq in 2006. He even made fun of the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) operation speed as being slower than the speed of erosion. 

"At one point, I had a line that I said we could call the FCC operating at the speed of erosion, but that would be an insult to erosion. So you just had this deal with a whole different pace." said Greifeld. 

Greifeld worked at Nasdaq during a time when trading speed was drastically increased by the emergence of electronic trading and the internet. He described the former SEC chairman William Donaldson as "living in the past" when he vowed to maintain the traditional grandeur of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Wall Street heavyweight's frustration in dealing with the SEC is also felt by many cryptocurrency firms. Earlier this year, the SEC repeatedly postponed decisions on the bitcoin ETF applications filed by asset managers Bitwise and VanEck until eventually dealing out rejection. The regulatory ambiguity around cryptocurrencies has also prompted exchanges like Coinbase and Kraken to form a rating council that determines which digital assets are more likely to be securities. Additionally, there is a backlog of around 35 to 40 cryptocurrency firms waiting for their broker-dealer licenses from U.S. securities watchdogs, per a Wall Street Journal report