Cryptocurrencies are heading back to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
On March 14, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled "Examining Cryptocurrencies and ICO Markets." The hearing marks the first time a group within Congress will specifically tackle the question of initial coin offerings (ICOs), an area that is firmly in the cross-hairs of agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as regulators around the world.
Statements from some of the members of the Capital Markets, Securities and Investment Subcommittee suggest that the hearing will have a largely educational bent. Speaking to CoinDesk last week, U.S. Representative Tom Emmer indicated that some of those attending are there to learn more about cryptocurrencies and token sales.
"I think this is going to be more elementary," he said during an interview on the sidelines of last week's DC Blockchain Summit in Washington, D.C. "I don't think they understand the depth or breadth of this thing - yet."
Other comments speak to the "appetite" for discussion that Emmer highlighted. In a statement to CoinDesk, Rep. Randy Hultgren expressed a desire to talk about investor protections as they relate to ICOs.
"I look forward to discussing how cryptocurrencies can open up new opportunities in our financial markets. Specifically, I'm interested in discussing how to balance access to credit and investor protection as it relates to so-called initial coin offerings," he said.
A previously published list of witnesses certainly reinforces the informational nature of the hearing. Set to appear are Dr. Chris Brummer, a law professor from Georgetown University; Mike Lempres, Coinbase's chief legal and risk officer; Peter Van Valkenburgh, research director for the non-profit advocacy group Coin Center; and Robert Rosenblum, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.
The degree of legal expertise tapped for the panel suggests that the discussion is likely to revolve around regulatory topics, especially on the question of classifying some tokens as securities.
The hearing represents the latest significant gathering of U.S. lawmakers around the topic of cryptocurrencies, coming over a month after the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee heard from the leaders of both the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (SEC) in early February.
That event notably saw both the SEC's Jay Clayton and the CFTC's J. Christopher Giancarlo suggest that their respective agencies may one day come to Congress in an effort to see their jurisdictions extended to cover more of the cryptocurrency market. That said, both agency chiefs indicated that they want to provide an accommodative environment for the tech - but not at the expense of investor protection and enforcement against potential scams.
"We owe it to this new generation to respect their enthusiasm for virtual currencies, with a thoughtful and balanced response, and not a dismissive one," Giancarlo remarked at the time.
Congress also has several bills related to cryptocurrencies, and while the long-term success of those measures isn't certain in a politically-charged environment, Wednesday's discussion may ultimately come into play as lawmakers look at proposals to beef up federal-level oversight of exchanges and study the link between cryptocurrencies and terrorism financing.
In the days following the Senate hearing in February, two House subcommittees held a hearing on blockchain, which, while it largely veered away from the topic of regulation, served as a platform for lawmakers to learn more about the technology.
U.S. Capitol Building image via Shutterstock
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.
ICOsFinancial Services Committee
Quebec Pushes Hydropower Utility to Halt New Bitcoin Mines
The Canadian province of Quebec has temporarily put a halt to the development of new cryptocurrency mining operations.
The region - known for its cheap hydropower - has been an attractive destinati
Steve Seagal-Backed 'Bitcoiin' ICO Hit with Regulator Warning
The Securities Division of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is warning residents about the Steven Seagal-backed "Bitcoiin" project.
Citing New Jersey's cease-and-desist ord
Ireland's Finance Department Plans Blockchain Working Group
Ireland's Department of Finance has proposed the creation of a new blockchain working group to help create cohesive regulation across government agencies.
Revealed in a new report, titled "Virtual
'Fake News': Russian Official Reportedly Denies Involvement with Petro
The Russian government is pushing back against reports that it helped Venezuela launch its controversial "petro" cryptocurrency.
In public remarks Friday, the deputy director of the Information and
US Government Watchdog: Regulations Are Hobbling DLT Innovation
The complexity of U.S. financial regulations is holding back distributed ledger technology (DLT) startups, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says.
The GAO's finding, in a report publi
IRS Reminds US Taxpayers to Report Crypto Earnings
The Internal Revenue Service has reminded U.S. taxpayers to include any cryptocurrency income on their annual tax forms.
In a release published Friday, the IRS noted that cryptocurrency transaction
Smart Contracts Now Recognized Under Tennessee Law
The governor of Tennessee has signed a bill that legally recognizes blockchain data under state law.
Governor Bill Haslam signed the measure on Thursday, public records show, capping a months-long
Nevada digs bitcoin, DC loves Obama: Most popular purchases in every state, according to app Earny
Ever wonder what residents in your neighbor states are shopping for? The most popular purchases by state, it turns out, vary greatly. Earny, an app that gets you money back on things you buy based