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Rules & Regs

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Regulation in the Age of Transparency

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Voluntary transparency is a superior self-regulatory mechanism that could substantially enhance consumer protection and prudential oversight.

On a panel called ‘What Keeps Regulators Up at Night’ held at the Money Transmitter Regulators Association conference in Boston last November, three experienced state examiners from Virginia, Wyoming and Texas laid out in clear terms the key issues they face when vetting money transmitters in their states. Their primary concern: the accuracy and integrity of a license holder’s financial and accounting reports, which are the basis for ascertaining a company’s true financial condition and for ensuring there is sufficient liquidity to meet “transmission obligations.” That’s right, we’re in the second decade of the 21st century, and regulators still rely on after-the-fact, paper-based reporting. Further, regulated financial institutions seem incapable of providing unimpeachable transactional and financial reports to ultimately demonstrate their solvency.

It is a widely known fact that regulation always lags behind technological innovations, Continue reading

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The Hidden Rule that Could Kill Bitcoin’s Irrevocability

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If federal anti-money laundering rules ‘killed’ Bitcoin’s anonymity, could consumer protection rules ‘kill’ its irrevocability?

Last March, the crypto-currency world was struck dumb when the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the United States federal agency responsible for enforcing anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations, issued the now famous interpretive guidance equating exchangers and administrators of ‘convertible virtual currencies’ to money transmitters.

Although some of us saw it coming, crypto-preneurs are just now slowly waking up to the reality of what it really means to be this particular species of non-bank financial institution.  See the final section for a compendium of risks and obligations.

One set of regulations that I included in the laundry list of obligations last April but has yet to come to the fore are the federal consumer protection rules emanating from the Dodd-Frank Act and being enforced by the Continue reading

The End of Bitcoin as We Know It

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(Or as hard-core Bitcoiners want it, I should say.)

“U.S. crypto-preneurs who don’t factor in regulation could under-budget their ventures by, at a minimum, a quarter of a million dollars annually.”

Rocky week for the crypto-currency world this past one!  All of the following happened over the course of the last seven to ten days:

  • Liberty Reserve (LR) was shut down, and its management indicted and arrested, in what is being described as “the largest money laundering case in U.S. history.”  A short video at the bottom explains how the case went down.
  • FinCEN designated LR as entity “of primary money laundering concern,” and proposed a rule to order that all large financial institutions freeze any and all of LR’s assets. Continue reading

It’s Official: Foreign Bitcoin Operators Servicing Texas Residents Must Obtain a Texas Money Transmitter License

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As of May 1, the state of Texas became the second US state to explicitly require foreign-located money transmitters (including Bitcoin exchangers and administrators) to obtain a state money transmitter license if their customers are residents of Texas.  The state of New York had taken a similar stance back in March of 2011.

In no ambiguous terms, the Texas Banking Department ruling, states that:

” […] it is the Department’s position that any money transmitter who allows Texas consumers to initiate transactions through its website is subject to the licensing requirements of the Money Services Act, regardless of where the transmitter is physically located.”

Equally clear had been the state of New York Banking Department in 2011 when ruling that:

” […] there is no doubt that businesses located out-of-state are subject to the jurisdiction of the state in which they do business.  […] Likewise, it is clear that businesses located out-of-state that do business Continue reading

Is US Regulation the Single Biggest Threat to Bitcoin?

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On March 4, 2013 I gave a talk titled just like this post at the New York City Bitcoin Meetup.  The talk blurb read:

If you are a Bitcoin ecosystem participant (user, entrepreneur), you may be aware that there is a myriad of rules and regulations, at the federal, state and even international level, that may apply to you.  Why?  Because Bitcoin is technically a “value transfer” system, and such systems are heavily regulated to protect consumer rights and deter financial crime, including the financing of terrorism.  Join us for a lively discussion of potential obstacles to the growth of the Bitcoin ecosystem.

The rather hyperbolic title attracted a few dozen very smart (and gracious) entrepreneurs and geeks, most of whom, unsurprisingly, were not aware that the United States has a very convoluted and onerous regulatory regime that can potentially stifle innovation or, at a minimum, slow down the spread of virtual peer-to-peer value transfer systems like Bitcoin. Continue reading

FinCEN Issues Guidance on Virtual Currencies

It didn’t take me a crystal ball to make this prediction!

FinCEN’s Virtual-Money Guidelines Add Roadblocks for New Companies

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