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February Digital Asset Policy Update

Last week was a big one for digital assets on the policy front:

  • In the wake of the Justice Department’s seizure of 4.3 million of stolen bitcoin, DOJ named the first director of its new National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team.
  • Stablecoin regulation was the subject of a hearing in the Senate Banking and Urban Affairs Committee to examine the report from the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets that recommends Congress pass legislation to create a regulatory infrastructure for stablecoins and require issuers to be insured depository institutions (banks).  The committee Chairman, Senator Brown (D-OH), expressed deep skepticism about digital assets generally, and stablecoin in particular.  Senator Toomey (R-PA), the ranking member, earlier released his own draft of principles for stablecoin legislation (https://www.banking.senate.gov/newsroom/minority/toomey-outlines-stablecoin-principles-to-guide-future-legislation).  And another Committee member, Senator Lummis (R-WY), announced previously that she will soon introduce a broad digital assets bill to create a new digital assets regulatory authority and clarity tax laws.
  • Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) released a draft bill (https://www.ft.com/content/1e59e952-c5cf-4c8e-983a-560170c87cda) to require stablecoin issuers to be either insured depository institutions or a “non-bank qualified issuer.”
  • The SEC reached a record $100 million settlement with crypto lending platform BlockFi that will lead to the first SEC registration of BlockFi’s interest-bearing crypto accounts — a move that continued the heated debate over the practice of “regulation by enforcement” versus rule-making to clarify the SEC’s authority.
  • The Financial Stability Board issued a report on crypto assets and warned that digital assets could in the future pose systemic risk in traditional financial markets (https://www.ft.com/content/1e59e952-c5cf-4c8e-983a-560170c87cda).
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