The 2013 San Jose Bitcoin Conference has proven to be rather controversial. While it is considered to have been a success, being well attended and attracting high profile speakers, it has brought up a very divisive topic in the Bitcoin community…regulation.
The problem here is that Mt. Gox is operating as an unlicensed money transmitter.
With their recent guidance, FinCEN decided that virtual currency exchangers are money transmitters.
“An administrator or exchanger that (1)accepts and transmits a convertible virtual currency or (2) buys or sells convertible virtual currency for any reason is a money transmitter under FinCEN’s regulations.”
Mt. Gox is not a US company; however, it does a lot of business in the States and is not registered with FinCEN.
An informant working with a Homeland Security agent signed up for both Mt. Gox and Dwolla accounts. After making a few transactions, he was able to determine that his funds had gone through a Wells Fargo bank account owned by Mt. Gox and opened by the exchanges’ CEO Mark Karpeles. The account was opened by Mark in May 2011 who at the time signed a Wells Fargo form declaring that his business was not a Money Services business or a Money Transmitter. Of course this was almost 2 years prior to FinCEN’s guidance on the issue.
The Warrant states that Mt. Gox is in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1960. The punishment for this can include fines and up to 5 years in prison.
Ars Technica obtained a copy of the warrant which can be read here.
The Department of Homeland Security appears to have shut down the ability to use Dwolla, a mobile payment service, to withdraw and deposit money into Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin trading platform. A Dwolla representative confirmed the move to Betabeat.
A representative for Dwolla told Betabeat that the company is “not party” to this matter and encourages those with questions to reach out to Mt. Gox or the DHS.
“The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a ‘Seizure Warrant’ for the funds associated with Mutum Sigillium’s Dwolla account (a.k.a. Mt. Gox),” he said. “In light of the court order, procured by the Department of Homeland Security, Dwolla has ceased all account activities associated with Dwolla services for Mutum Sigillum while Dwolla’s holding partner transferred Mutum Sigillium’s balance, per the warrant.”
Arizona bill SB 1439 passed the state legislature last month and would have allowed Arizona residents to use gold and silver with the same recognition as Federal Reserve notes starting in 2014.
However, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill on Thursday.
Last November Mt. Gox and CoinLab, a small US based Bitcoin exchange, entered into an agreement “to service the Bitcoin exchange market in a mutually beneficial manner”. According to CoinLab’s formal complaint, the agreement allowed CoinLab an exclusive license in North America to use Mt. Gox’s software in providing exchange services, in return CoinLab would provide the Japan based Mt. Gox with access to its US banking relationships.
CoinLab alleges that Mt. Gox failed to uphold their end of the bargain and is requesting damages for breach of contract.
The legislation was inspired by Utah’s legal tender law passed in 2011. Arizona’s version would allow Arizona residents to use gold and silver with the same recognition as Federal Reserve notes starting in 2014… assuming of course that your local grocery store is willing to accept your silver coins; the bill does not require anyone to accept gold or silver in payment.
This guidance was issued to “provide clarity and regulatory certainty for businesses and individuals engaged in an expanding field of financial activity.” Or put another way, FinCEN explains who exactly they intend to regulate.
FinCEN covers their bases here discussing “users, administrators, and exchangers… persons creating, obtaining, distributing, exchanging, accepting or transmitting” virtual currencies, both centralized and de-centralized, e-currencies and e-precious metals.
- FinCEN sees those dealing in virtual currencies as their regulatory responsibility
- Users, and Bitcoin miners seem to be exempt from regulation for the moment
- Buying or selling virtual currencies for “any reason” can make you a money transmitter and subject to FinCEN regulation
- Virtual currency dealers are NOT necessarily foreign exchange dealers
- FinCEN rules can also apply to those dealing in e-precious metals
- However, Prepaid Access rules do NOT apply to virtual currencies
How’s this for a startup venture – Digital Gold Currency: a universally used currency that can be trusted by all, without the risk of debasement or fraud. Sounds pretty good, right?
Well over the past year, that’s exactly what I’ve worked on, and I’ve certainly discovered a few things along the way.
The business’ founders, Chris Odom (Fellow Traveler) and Johann Gevers aim to make this ‘financial system 2.0’ possible by developing commercial versions of the Open Transactions digital finance library. This software will allow digital finance entrepreneurs to startup micropayment services, financial markets, community currencies, escrow services, and many others all without depending on the traditional banking or legal system.
Johann, Monetas’ CEO, recently shared with me his thoughts on finance, his belief in decentralized systems and his plans for Monetas.