Here come the lobbyists.
The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, the asset manager Fidelity, the payments company Square and the investment firm Paradigm have established a new trade group in Washington: The Crypto Council for Innovation. The group hopes to influence policies that will be critical for expanding the use of cryptocurrencies in conjunction with traditional finance, Ephrat Livni reports in the DealBook newsletter.
Cryptocurrencies are still mostly held as speculative assets, but some experts believe Bitcoin and related blockchain technologies will become fundamental parts of the financial system, and the success of businesses built around the technology may also invite more attention from regulators.
“We’re going to increasingly be having scrutiny about what we’re doing,” Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, said on CNBC. “We’re very excited and happy to play by the rules,” he added, but regulation of crypto should be on a “level playing field with traditional financial services.”
Here are four of the issues that will keep crypto lobbyists busy:
The Crypto Council’s first commissioned publication is an analysis of Bitcoin’s illicit use, and it concludes that concerns are “significantly overstated” and that blockchain technology could be better used by law enforcement to stop crime and collect intelligence.
New anti-money-laundering rules passed this year will significantly expand disclosures for digital currencies. The Treasury Department has also proposed rules that would require detailed reporting for transactions over $3,000 involving “unhosted wallets,” or digital wallets that are not associated with a third-party financial institution, and require institutions handling cryptocurrencies to process more data.
When is a digital asset a security and when is it a commodity? Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are released via a decentralized network generally qualify as commodities and are less heavily regulated than securities, which represent a stake in a venture. Tokens released by people and companies are more likely to be characterized as securities because they more often represent a stake in the issuer’s project.
The Chinese government is already experimenting with a central bank digital currency, a digital yuan. China would be the first country to create a virtual currency, but many are considering it. Some crypto advocates worry that China’s alacrity in the space threatens the dollar, national security and American competitiveness.