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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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Last Friday’s news that the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (IAFCU) had shut down Tradehill’s account must have sent chills down the spine of every virtual currency entrepreneur. If it didn’t, it should. The IAFCU was supposed to be one of the few, if not the only, Bitcoin-friendly financial institution in the U.S. rescuing virtual currency exchangers from ‘banking oblivion’. At this point, we can only speculate about the true causes of this unfortunate situation, and we certainly hope it gets resolved favorably, promptly and permanently.
Let’s hope it’s another case of entrepreneurial immaturity, as that would be the lesser evil compared to other potentially more devastating ones. However, with all due respect to the parties involved in this particular case, there is, in general, a fine line between immaturity and stupidity; one that cannot be ignored in a nascent industry that is riddled with risks, and in which a few bad apples could set the entire industry basket back by years. My point is: Are convertible virtual currency exchangers doing their homework?
News flash #1 to virtual currency exchangers: you are financial institutions!
Being a financial institution requires a heightened degree of governance –organization, discipline and Continue reading
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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
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Apart from the cookie-cutter risks everyone is required by law to disclose, the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust prospectus contains a series of unique risk factors that would make even Bernie Madoff cringe. One of those risks, indicated as my favorite below, almost made this post qualify for my ‘Seriously?’ category, reserved for cases of utmost nonsense and near insanity.
All joking aside, the unique virtual currency-related risks listed in the Winklevoss twins’ new Bitcoin fund SEC filing hint at the number and complexity of roadblocks that the crypto-community will need to surmount if it aspires to take digital currencies to the mainstream. On the positive side, this first (technically, second) Bitcoin fund marks Bitcoin’s official entry into the capital markets and could go a long way towards legitimizing it as a commodity.
Here are some of the more salient risks for your edification and enjoyment:
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For the benefit of those whose low tolerance for verbosity may have caused them to miss my insights-laden interview with David Landsman, Executive Director of the National Money Transmitters Association, the industry’s leading advocate for the rights of state-licensed US money transmitters, I have abridged it considerably and converted it into a more digestible format.
In PART ONE of the interview, David talked about the image problems that all money transmitters have in the United States, the fragmented regulatory regime and the likelihood of a federal license, now that the Bitcoin community has begun to join the fray.
In PART TWO David offered his strong viewpoint on US banks, federal and state regulators. Also, he provided more details about the legal and PR efforts in fighting the closing of accounts, including anti-trust, administrative and civil rights causes of action.
On the fragmented US regulatory regime and the likelihood of a federal license Continue reading
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Interview with David Landsman, Executive Director of the National Money Transmitters Association (NMTA) – PART TWO
Longer post than usual, I’m aware, but well worth it –the closing of bank accounts, the Bitcoin Foundation Cease & Desist Order from California… David comments on it all and gives links to valuable resources!
In PART ONE, David talked about the image problems that all money transmitters have in the United States, the fragmented regulatory regime and the likelihood of a federal license, now that the Bitcoin community has joined the fray.
Read on for David’s strong viewpoint on US banks –very timely, given the increasing closing of Bitcoin operator accounts in the US–, and the reasons why many legal and PR efforts in fighting the closing of accounts have so far been fruitless.
PART TWO Continue reading
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Interview with David Landsman, Executive Director of the National Money Transmitters Association (NMTA) – PART ONE
In the past couple of weeks I have noticed in my conversations with cryto-preneurs a growing, yet begrudging acceptance of the inevitability of having to comply with United States regulation if their ventures are to be viable. However, many remain unperturbed and some even defiant.
After writing extensively on America’s convoluted regulatory regime, and the challenges ahead for Bitcoin entrepreneurs, this week I thought I would seek the thoughts and opinions of someone I respect a lot, who knows the money transmitter industry inside out, and who has for decades advocated for regulatory rationality and fair play –David Landsman, head of the National Money Transmitters Association, a U.S. industry advocacy group for small and medium-sized operators who toil through some of the same issues as the Bitcoin community is facing today. Continue reading
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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:
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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
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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