'Digital Asset' businesses embrace regulatory compliance with new industry group

dataAnnounced this week at the Inside Bitcoins conference  the new DATA industry group aims to represent businesses not just in the Bitcoin space but any digital asset including, “emerging payments, virtual currency, and other financial technology innovations”.

DATA, or the Digital Asset Transfer Authority’s founding members include the CEO’s of leading Bitcoin businesses such as BitInstant, BitPay, & BitStamp as well as the CEO’s of other digital currency businesses including Ripple’s OpenCoin and Ven.

However, the groups stated goals seem sure to heat up the regulation debate.

From DATA’s official announcement

To reach this potential, to inspire confidence in the services we offer, and to ensure fair and responsible treatment of consumers and merchants, we believe our industry must evolve in compliance with law and regulation. We must work proactively with regulators and policymakers to adapt their requirements to our technologies and business models. We must develop and implement common risk management and compliance standards that address the public policy concerns associated with our businesses. And our firms must build risk management and compliance programs that meet those standards.

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Bank of Thailand bans Bitcoin

BankofThailandOn Monday, Thailand based Bitcoin exchange Bitcoin Co. Ltd. ceased trading due to an advisement from the Bank of Thailand declaring Bitcoin transactions illegal.

Via the exchange’s site

At the conclusion of the meeting senior members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department advised that due to lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets the following Bitcoin activities are illegal in Thailand:

  • Buying Bitcoins
  • Selling Bitcoins
  • Buying any goods or services in exchange for Bitcoins
  • Selling any goods or services for Bitcoins
  • Sending Bitcoins to anyone located outside of Thailand
  • Receiving Bitcoins from anyone located outside of Thailand

The exchange had been operating on previous advice from the Bank of Thailand that Bitcoin was not a currency. However, the businesses had been in the process of registering with regulators in Thailand to ensure that they were operating lawfully.

This change in policy from the Bank of Thailand occurred after the exchange made a presentation to bank members in an attempt to explain the currency to them. The companies managing director gave a presentation on “the workings of Bitcoin, the benefits of Bitcoin, incite into the company’s operations and future implications of Bitcoin.” …I guess he got their attention!

A possible Bitcoin fork? – Bitcoin 2: Freedom of Transaction

Those following the internal rift in the Bitcoin community over regulation have often discussed the possibility of a fork.  The Bitcoin world moves quickly.

Hitting the web only hours ago is a paper detailing the how and why of a proposed “Bitcoin 2”. The authors, and many in the Bitcoin community, are concerned that changes will be made to the Bitcoin protocol turning it into “a distributed PayPal instead of a censorship resistant currency”.  

The paper discusses inherent weaknesses and changes to the protocol currently being discussed which could see users lose the option of anonymity or see miners concentrate into larger centres of control. The proposed “Bitcoin 2” aims to increase Bitcoin’s resistance to centralization, censorship and political control and prevent it from being “absorbed by the established financial and regulatory environment.”

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Bitcoin Foundation Comments on Liberty Reserve Special Measures

After shutdown of Liberty Reserve in May this year FinCEN proposed an “Imposition of Special Measure Against Liberty Reserve S.A. as a Financial Institution of Primary Money Laundering Concern”. The primary purpose of the ‘Special Measure’ being to cut Liberty Reserve off from the banking system.

FinCEN noted Liberty Reserve’s irrevocable transactions and lack of ID verification as evidence that “Liberty Reserve’s system is structured so as to facilitate money laundering and other criminal activity,” these comments worried the digital currency community and was likely what scarred off many of their banking partners.

On the 19th, the Bitcoin Foundation responded to FinCEN’s proposed special measure urging them to clarify that not all virtual currency transactions are inherently suspect.

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SatoshiDice sells for $11mil

SatoshiDiceIn perhaps the first major acquisition of a Bitcoin company, the gambling site sold this week for 126,315BTC, or $11.47million.

The site was launched by Erik Voorhees in late April 2012 with shares being traded on MPEx, a Bitcoin securities exchange.

Voorhees announced the sale on Wednesday evening via Bitcointalk.

Dear Asset Holders,

I have some very important news to share with you. Some of you will be pleased, and some upset, but I believe this to be a solid, desirable, and fair outcome for those who have put their trust in S.DICE.

SatoshiDice is being sold, in full, to a new company that will take over all ownership, operations, and management.  The total sale price is 126,315 BTC, or 0.00126315 BTC per share.

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Using M-Pesa to bring Bitcoin to Africa

The M-Pesa mobile payment system is huge in one of Africa’s biggest economies, Kenya. An estimated 31% of Kenya’s GDP travels through the person to person payment provider. The country has a large rural population making traditional branch banking an unattractive option. This is certainly one of the reasons that M-Pesa’s SMS based mobile payment system has caught on. But what is clear from the M-Pesa story is that the worlds ‘under-banked’ need better solutions.

Could Bitcoin be a solution for Africa’s under-banked? It’s certainly a possibility and why not start in Kenya with a population who both has a need for and a familiarity with digital money.

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Matonis: Why I Accepted Executive Director Position for Bitcoin Foundation

Via the Bitcoin Foundation Blog

I am proud to have been associated with the Bitcoin Foundation since its launch just nine short months ago. A nonprofit organization for Bitcoin can add greatly to the political and economic discourse for cryptographic money and monetary freedom. As Executive Director, I welcome the new challenge.

The Foundation has never claimed to represent all of Bitcoin nor all of its users because that would be impossible for any organization. Rather, the Foundation has consistently attempted to fill the gap where market-based incentives may not have produced the same outcome, such as in the areas of specialized grants and compensation transparency for volunteer developers as well as legal challenges to bitcoin usage and the sponsorship of aggressive legal defense.

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UK regulator will not require Bitcoin exchanges to register

CoinDesk is reporting that in a letter send to an exchange start up the UK, financial regulator HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)  has stated that the proposed exchange has no need to register under money laundering regulations.  However the letter does make it clear that HMRC may change their mind and require registration in the future.

Via CoinDesk

The letter from HMRC reads as follows:

“With reference to your enquiry at this time there is no requirement to register with HMRC under the Money Laundering regulations, however HMRC recognise that the issuing of Bitcoins represent an emerging development.

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The Bitcoin Foundation has a new Executive Director

Jon Matonis has been appointed as the new director and will start immediately.

Via the Bitcoin Foundation blog

As of today, Jon Matonis has accepted my offer to join us as Executive Director of the Bitcoin Foundation. He starts immediately, although he’ll take a few months to ramp up to full time.

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A Bitcoin ETF?

On Monday the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, filed paper work with the SEC for a Bitcoin ETF. The “The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust” has filed  for an initial public offering of 1 million shares at $20 each.

“The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust (Trust) will issue Winklevoss Bitcoin Shares (Shares) which represent units of fractional undivided beneficial interest in and ownership of the Trust. Math-Based Asset Services LLC is the sponsor of the Trust (Sponsor) and [TRUSTEE] is the trustee and custodian of the Trust (Trustee) using proprietary and patent-pending technology to administer the Trust. The Trust intends to issue additional Shares on a continuous basis.”

While this is certainly a sign of Bitcoin continuing its move towards the mainstream, the filing has also drawn a lot of criticism. Critics include those who think Bitcoin is a silly idea in general, to those who are all too happy to list all the ways in which it could go wrong.

The EFT is still a long ways off of actually happening, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the SEC will handle the filling.