In the 1970s, nearly half a century before he’d grow powerful enough to strike fear into the entire U.S. cryptocurrency industry, Gary Gensler was the 112-pound coxswain of the University of Pennsylvania crew team.

Unlike runners and cyclists, rowers (such as actual regulation-following Olympic rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) move backwards. The coxswain, who doesn’t touch the oars himself, faces forward to tell his teammates what pace to hit, guide their progress, and make sure the boat doesn’t sink.

Now, eight months into Gensler’s stint as chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the country’s crypto industry is either headed for the rocks or glorious victory. And no one can quite tell where Gensler is guiding it.

Crypto had its biggest year ever in 2021.

What began as a wave of price increases in late 2020 thanks to the economic environment of the pandemic turned into a tidal swell in 2021, leaving Decrypt with a surplus of candidates for our Person of the Year. 

The most obvious may have been Elon Musk, the Tesla/SpaceX CEO who has used his thumbs to tweet Dogecoin into a multi-billion dollar asset. He pushed Bitcoin prices ever higher by prodding his electric car company to buy $1.5 billion in BTC in February, the largest single crypto purchase by a publicly traded company ever. Musk was TIME’s choice for Person of the Year.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the wunderkind now known purely by the acronym SBF, brings the same devotion to crypto trading and online gaming as Musk does to tweeting. The FTX founder sleeps on an office bean bag chair so he can…


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