CoinDesk: New York extended the comment period for its BitLicense proposal. What were the key factors behind the decision?
Lawsky: We got a request from a number of different companies and individuals, including a large number of companies and individuals that sent a letter together, and certainly when we get a request from people who care deeply about how this regulation turns out, that's a factor, we consider that request and we consider it seriously.
In terms of why we did it, we got the request, but I think it's obvious that we're regulating here in a new area where you really have this very fascinating and complicated collision of regulation and technology, and I think it's vital we get it right.
It's clear from the letters we received and the letters we've gotten, there's a chance that this regulation could be a template that could be used not only in the US but internationally, and I think that gives us an additional responsibility to do our very best to get it right and the best way to get something right is to try and get as many viewpoints as you can when you put a complicated regulatory framework, consider them carefully and make the best decisions possible.
We want to make sure we consider all the potential unintended consequences, we want to make sure we're considering all the intentional consequences and the more we do that, the better the reg is ultimately going to be.
Now, we do want to move relatively quickly still, I think the sooner we get the regulatory framework out there, I think ultimately the better, but we don't need to move so fast that we risk getting something wrong.
I think given the level of interest, given that this is a new area and it's complicated and that it's potentially an international template and given the request for more time, I think an additional 45 days was reasonable. I look forward to getting a lot more comments.
We're not the kind of agency that thinks we have a monopoly on the truth and that we're always right. We feel strongly about a lot of the provisions in the proposed reg, but we get it that there might be things we can improve. The more comments that we get from serious people who care deeply about the future of digital currencies, then i think we're going to take those comments very seriously and we're already working on them in terms of a new revised reg we would put out at the end of October.
CoinDesk: There's been a lot of negative reactions to the proposal, have you been surprised by the community's reaction?
No, not really. I think the most surprising thing has been that certain provisions in the regulation that I think when we drafted it initially that we thought would be pretty clear in terms of the breadth, were read by some much more broadly than we intended.
The reg is intended primarily to financial intermediaries and to the financial service industry. What we saw fairly quickly that certain provisions were being read by software developers as potentially applying to them, and that could have a stifling development on them, if every time you needed to develop a new piece of code, you'd have to go get a license, when we read the reg we were pretty clear that it wouldn't apply to software developers, so we were a little surprised it was read that way, but looking back I can see how if there's a potential that the reg applies to you and you're talking to your lawyers and you don't know, these words are ambiguous, that's something that can occur.
I think accompanying the revisions, we'll do some kind of guidance so people have more clarity as to the breadth of the regs, so software developers aren't going to have to be sitting around wondering if it applies to them - it doesn't, it applies to financial intermediaries.
CoinDesk: You mentioned that you're currently revising the proposal. Can you take us through that process and the work that's being done?
Lawksy: I don't want to get too deep into it. But I think we have a whole group of people lawyers and otherwise, regulators who are going through all the comments we are receiving and putting them into buckets.
Let's say we have six letters we're looking at at one time, there might be the same point made in all six, and you just kind of bucket that and ultimately you have buckets of all the comments and critiques, etc and we go through a process of doing memos and analyses, do those comments make sense, should we make a change, should we not. Some of them might be obvious, like oh we didn't mean that, we didnt' need to say that.
I think some of them we'll have a lot of high-level meetings on, to talk through, well if we make that change, what does it mean, does it have any potentially unintended consequences, does this make the playing field somehow uneven for example and we'll work through that process and we'll put out a revised reg at the end of October. And when we put out a revised reg, if there are material changes, there's an additional 30-day comment period, so they can look at it and say this is a new revised reg, we should tinker here and tinker there
CoinDesk: Do foresee circumstances where you'd need to extend the time window for comment?
I don't right now, but never say never.
We do want to keep this moving on a fairly rapid track, we've already gotten extensive and very good comments in the first 45 days haven't even run fully. So I think an additional 45 days should get us to where we're comfortable and that we've given people enough time to think about the reg and the provisions they care about and give us comment and they have an additional 45 days, if they make changes, we'll get an additional 30 days then, so i feel like that should be more than enough time.
My hope is that we can move fairly rapidly.
CoinDesk: It's the end of October, what's the best-case outlook for bitcoin companies in New York?
We're primarily focused on the reg and getting it right and realizing that were not this agency that thinks it has a monopoly on the truth and if people have smart, good, thoughtful comment and we're going to consider them very carefully, and we're going to try to make this reg as thoughtful and nuanced and balanced and effective as we can.
If we get that right, I think the outlook for virtual currencies in one form or another is quite bright in New York, but we'll have to take it one day at a time. http://www.coindesk.com/ben-lawsky-bitcoin-regulation/
Ben Lawsky Introduces Changes to the Bitcoin Bitlicense Regulations at Money 20/20 in Response to feedback from 90 Day Comment Period on Initial Proposal Financial regulation is a been a central topic for Bitcoins and other digital currencies. The lack of framework regulating Bitcoins has created a major difficulty for businesses active in the space. For exchanges, this has meant that forming banking partnerships for receiving and sending customer funds is filled with question marks, with no guarantees […] Ben Lawsky, the former New York Superintendent of Financial Services who spearheaded the BitLicense regulatory framework while in office, has joined startup Ripple's board of directors. Financial regulation is a been a central topic for Bitcoins and other digital currencies. The lack of framework regulating Bitcoins has created a major difficulty for businesses active in the space. For exchanges, this has meant that forming banking partnerships for receiving and sending customer funds is filled with question marks, with no guarantees … Earlier today, New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) superintendent Ben Lawsky participated in a Bitcoin-themed Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, offering a window into the state’s plans for future regulation of the cryptocurrency.Lawsky made headlines last week after sketching out a regulatory framework that would include a “BitLicense” for those doing business in virtual ...
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