Why a CFTC investigator attended Texas’ biggest crypto gathering: ‘This conference is so odd’

Why a CFTC investigator attended Texas’ biggest crypto gathering: ‘This conference is so odd’
The crypto industry gathered at the Consensus conference in Austin, Texas, in May. Credit: Shutterstock / Shutterstock AI Generator
  • A user on X shared a rumour about federal employees gathering evidence at Consensus.
  • An investigator for the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission did attend the crypto conference.
  • “This conference is so odd,” wrote the investigator in an email to a colleague.

In late May, during Consensus, one of the main stops on the crypto conference circuit, Larry Florio was worried.

The general counsel for crypto venture-capital firm 1kx heard that the staffers with the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission, one of the main financial regulators in the US, were photographing booths and people’s badges at the conference

“I am strongly against them collecting evidence like this,” he posted on X.

He was right to be suspicious. Lauren Fulks, a CFTC investigator, did fly from Kansas City, Missouri, to Austin, Texas, to attend the conference, according to documents DL News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“This conference is so odd,” Fulks emailed another colleague before she attended the event.

However, these records, which include emails, texts, and travel receipts, don’t indicate that Fulks showed up with a cabal of CFTC employees as part of a sting operation to catch crypto companies breaking the law.

US government employees are travelling to the industry’s home turf to learn more — and are having fun with it. In Fulks’ case, her attendance seemed more like a lark.

“I just requested it as training,” Fulks texted Jack Murphy, a trial attorney at the CFTC, in reference to how she got the greenlight to travel from Missouri to Texas. “I was shocked it got approved.”

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It’s no surprise that an investigator for one of the most influential financial regulators in the US attended a crypto conference.

The CFTC and other regulators have long had presences at industry events.

In 2019, the CFTC set up a booth at the conference to let attendees know they can blow the whistle on companies or individuals they think are breaking the law.

In 2021, at a crypto conference in New York, the SEC delivered a subpoena to Do Kwon, the founder of Terra Labs who is now mired in an extradition battle in Montenegro.

This year, CFTC commissioner Summer Mersinger spoke on a panel at Consensus with Hester Peirce, a commissioner from the Securities and Exchange Commission. And in the main showroom, the CFTC had its own table.

In a text to Murphy, Fulks told him about her experience fielding questions from attendees on the showroom floor. “We just got pounded,” she said, adding later: “One person mentioned you by name lol.”

Murphy messaged back: “”Hahaha.”

Neither Fulks nor spokespeople for the CFTC immediately returned a request for comment.

Feds galore

In addition to Fulks and the CFTC commissioner, other CFTC attendees to Consensus were the agency’s director of enforcement, the commissioner’s chief of staff, and the director of the division of the office of customer education, according to Fulks’ emails.

Some staffers from the CFTC also hobnobbed with other current and former government employees at a nearby hotel for breakfast, per a guest list sent to Fulks.

“For 75 minutes, we are providing a private room that supports the public and private sectors coming together to collaborate with key constituents to move digital assets policy forward… responsibly,” wrote one of the conference’s organisers in an email to Fulks.

Attendees who RSVPed included higher-ups from the Internal Revenue Service, a deputy attorney general from Oklahoma, and the director of enforcement on the Texas State Securities Board.

John Deaton, a Senate candidate running against crypto foe Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, also planned to swing by.

Whatever their reasons, expect to see more of Fulks and her ilk in 2025.

“Next year is in Toronto, so you should def put that on your calendar,” messaged Fulks to Murphy, the CFTC lawyer, in reference to Consensus’ next location in North America.

“Yeah, maybe the task force can go,” he replied. “It’s genuinely work related.”

Ben Weiss is a Dubai Correspondent at DL News. Got a tip? Email him at bweiss@dlnews.com.