On December 16, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), a state banking watchdog group, released a draft model regulatory framework on virtual currency (Draft Framework) that is less stringent than the originally released BitLicense proposal from the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). 
Continue Reading Conference of State Bank Supervisors Issues Draft Model Regulatory Framework on Virtual Currency

On December 18, New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky delivered remarks on the revised BitLicense framework at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC. If adopted, the proposed BitLicense framework would regulate and license companies performing virtual currency business activities. Superintendent Lawsky explained that the changes to the BitLicense framework were intended to provide additional flexibility to virtual currency firms while maintaining consumer protection. 
Continue Reading DFS Superintendent Lawsky Discusses Revised BitLicense Framework

On December 8, the Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned a computer programmer for operating two online exchanges that traded securities using virtual currencies without registering them as broker-dealers or stock exchanges. The programmer, Ethan Burnside, operated the two exchanges through his company, BTC Trading Corp., from August 2012 to October 2013. Account holders were able to purchase securities in virtual currency businesses using bitcoins on BTC Virtual Stock Exchange and using litecoins on LTC-Global Virtual Stock Exchange. The exchanges were not registered as broker-dealers but solicited the public to open accounts and trade securities. The exchanges also were not registered as stock exchanges but enlisted issuers to offer securities to the public for purchase and sale. Burnside also offered shares in LTC-Global Virtual Stock Exchange itself, as well as interests in a separate Litecoin mining venture, LTC-Mining, in exchange for virtual currencies. The SEC charged Burnside with willful violations of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Burnside and BTC Trading Corp. with willful violations of Sections 5 and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Burnside cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and settled, paying more than $68,000 in profits plus interest and a penalty. The SEC also barred Burnside from the securities industry.
Continue Reading SEC Sanctions Operator of Unregistered Virtual Currency Exchanges

On December 5, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) issued the memorandum “Tax Department Policy on Transactions Using Convertible Virtual Currency.” The memorandum clarified that under New York law, convertible virtual currency (such as bitcoin) is considered “intangible property,” which is not subject to sales tax. Therefore, the purchase or sale

On December 3, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) published all 3,746 public comments it received on the proposed “BitLicense” regulatory framework that would cover businesses participating in “virtual currency business activities.” Through his Twitter account announcing the comments, DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky stated that a revised BitLicense proposal should be produced later in the month.
Continue Reading NYS DFS Publishes All BitLicense Comments; California Considers Regulation

According to Reuters reports on September 12, TeraExchange, LLC, received approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to begin listing an over-the-counter swap that is based on the price of a bitcoin. The CFTC approval marks the first time a US regulatory agency approved a bitcoin financial product. In March, TeraExchange announced the finalization and

On August 19, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling in the case of Robert Faiella, holding that bitcoins are “money,” citing the plain meaning of the term in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Faiella was charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960, in connection with the sale of bitcoins for use on the Silk Road website, the “deep web” black market website which was shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in October 2013. 
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff Rules that Bitcoin Is Money in New York Federal Court

The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released an advisory on the risks of virtual currencies. The advisory was issued two months after the Government Accountability Office requested that the CFPB look more closely at the virtual currency industry. The CFPB has also begun accepting complaints from virtual currency users regarding such products and services.

On July 17, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) released the draft “BitLicense,” a proposed regulatory framework to license Virtual Currency Business Activity. The proposed regulations follow DFS hearings held in January 2014 and are intended to promote consumer protection, stability and security in the operation of virtual currency exchanges, among other virtual currency businesses. The DFS regulations would apply to digital assets such as bitcoins and litecoins, but not to digital gaming units (e.g., World of Warcraft gold) or consumer rewards programs (e.g., Starbucks stars).
Continue Reading New York DFS Proposes First Comprehensive Regulatory Framework for Virtual Currency Businesses

On May 8, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously affirmed in an advisory opinion that political committees (including candidate campaigns and political action committees) could legally accept small bitcoin donations, acknowledging that digital currencies are a form of “money or anything of value” under election laws. While the advisory permits small bitcoin-denominated donations, it forbids bitcoin contributions in amounts greater than $100. The FEC also affirmed that a political committee could buy and sell bitcoins as an investment, provided that the political committee exchanged bitcoins for dollars prior to spending. The FEC declined to answer whether political committees could spend bitcoins on goods and services.
Continue Reading FEC Approves Bitcoin Political Donations While SEC Issues Investor Alert