Things are getting serious for Bitcoin this month: a federal judge declared it real money, Bloomberg Bloomberg gave it an experimental ticker (XBT), and New York’s financial regulator announced an interest in regulating it. Declaring Bitcoin “a virtual Wild West for narcotraffickers and other criminals,” the New York State Department of Financial Services is stepping into the sheriff’s boots.
“We believe that – for a number of reasons – putting in place appropriate regulatory safeguards for virtual currencies will be beneficial to the long-term strength of the virtual currency industry,” said NYSDFS superintendent Benjamin Lawsky in a statement.
The department is starting out by subpoenaing 22 digital-currency companies and investors to get a lay of the Bitcoin land. They sent letters to the major Bitcoin players asking them to hand over information regarding their money laundering controls, consumer protection practices, source of funding, pitch books (for Bitcoin start-ups) and investment strategies (for Bitcoin investors). The recipients of the subpoenas are nationwide and include everyone on the “people making real money on Bitcoin” list, such as Bitcoin exchanges and processors, “ mining equipment” maker Butterfly Labs, and major investors, such as the Winklevosses, Marc Andreessen & Ben Horowitz, and Google’s venture fund. (Full list below.)