US regulators explore rules for Bitcoin

The Bitcoin Foundation meets with several US agencies Monday

A Bitcoin trade group met with representatives of several U.S government agencies Monday as regulators debate whether the online currency should comply with currency rules.

Bitcoin critics have raised questions about the ability to anonymously use the online currency and launder money through the service. The agenda of Monday's meeting, with the Bitcoin Foundation and agencies including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., was to help regulators and law enforcement officers better understand Bitcoin and distributed finance, said Patrick Murck, general counsel of the foundation.

The foundation wants to help the agencies "make better decisions and develop new methodologies for identifying and interceding illicit activity," Murck said in an email. "Bitcoin and distributed finance is here to stay and our preferred path forward is a cooperative one, where we all can help ease each other's transition into an inclusive and distributed global financial system."

Representatives of the FBI and FDIC declined to comment on the meeting. A Department of Treasury spokeswoman didn't return an email seeking comment.

The foundation views the meeting as the beginning of a conversation about "the appropriate role of government and law enforcement in this emerging space," Murck added.

Federal regulators seem to be taking a "responsible approach" to working with the industry, he said. State regulators, however, "seem more interested in rushing to conclusions and tripping over themselves to be first-movers without regard to the unintended consequences for the industry," he added.

Earlier this month, Senators Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, and Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said their committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, has begun an inquiry into the "threats and risks" of virtual currency.

"The expansive nature of this emerging technology demands a holistic and whole-government approach in order to understand an provide a sensible regulatory framework for their existence," the senators said in a letter to Janet Napolitano, U.S. secretary of homeland security.

The Bitcoin Foundation's goal is to educate decision-makers about the currency and to standardize and protect Bitcoin worldwide.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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