Energy and Commerce Committee Talks Bitcoin in Congressional Hearing

A US Congressional subcommittee on commerce and trade held a hearing today on the subject of digital currencies and blockchain technology.

AccessTimeIconMar 16, 2016 at 9:35 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:11 p.m. UTC

The US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a meeting on digital currencies and blockchain technology today, exploring the technology's characteristics as well as its regulatory and legislative implications.

The panel of experts at the meeting included Circle CCO John Beccia; Coin Center executive director Jerry Brito; IBM vice president of blockchain technologies Jerry Cuomo; Factom chief architect Paul Snow; BuckleySandler LLP counsel Dana Syracuse; Coinbase counsel Juan Suarez; and Bloq co-founder Matt Roszak.

Opening statements largely focused on the fundamentals of bitcoin and the blockchain, offering a look at the current makeup of the startup ecosystem as well as a take on the existing regulatory environment.

Overall, the hearing had an introductory tone, as it is meant to serve as part of a series on technology disruption that in the past few months has also featured mobile payments, 3-D printing and drones.

Representative Michael Burgess, chairman of the subcommittee, cast a wide net in his opening, remarking on how some state legislatures have moved in the past year to cement their own regulatory approaches to the technology and consider how the technology could be applied to government itself.

Burgess stated:

"We will hear about what consumers can do today with digital currency, we're also hear about consumer protections. Even more exciting is the potential for consumer benefits to be realized by firms that utilize the blockchain."

The US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Range of questions

Indeed, many of the questions echoed those brought up in legislative hearings on digital currencies in the past, such as the question of privacy and anonymity on the bitcoin blockchain, perceptions that digital currencies are being used to finance terrorism, and the often-discussed volatility in bitcoin markets.

On the last point, Roszak argued – and others concurred – that the bitcoin market is still in its early stages, and as a result is subject to the forces of supply and demand as well as significant speculation.

"We’re at the front end of this," he said.

Consumer protection was also a notable subject during the hearing, with Illinois Rep. Janice Schakowsky asking whether bitcoin users can try to reverse a transaction after buying a defective product.

This sparked Syracuse, who previously worked for the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), the architects of the New York BitLicense, to cite that regulatory framework as an example of the kinds of consumer protection mechanisms that can be put in place.

"Under the BitLicense, there are certain enumerated disclosures that need to be made. Disclosures about volatility, disclosures about the irreversibility of a transaction, they have to be made," he said.

The meeting concluded with Burgess asking panel members about potential use cases, with micropayments, smart insurance contracts and distributed forms of corporate governance being offered as possible future applications.

Burgess, who at times tried to strike a light-hearted tone during the hearing, closed with a joke:

"When we had the drones hearing, we had drones here. I was so looking forward to finding out who's face was on the bitcoin, and I still don’t know, even after the end of this hearing."

A full recording of the hearing can be found below:

Image via Shutterstock


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, 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. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.


CoinDesk - Unknown
Three Arrows Paper Trail Leads to Trading Desk Obscured Via Offshore Entities

As Three Arrows Capital collapsed under market pressure, its much-lesser known trading desk, TPS Capital, remained active, sources say. But a complex ownership structure might frustrate creditors' efforts to collect.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
June Was Bitcoin’s Worst Month Ever

Plus, European crypto regulation comes into view.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
What Traders Are Saying About Bitcoin's Biggest Monthly Loss in 11 Years

Poor macroeconomic sentiment, fears of inflation and systemic risks from the crypto market pushed the cryptocurrency below 2017’s highs.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
Three Arrows Capital Files for Bankruptcy in New York Tied to British Virgin Islands Proceeding

A British Virgin Islands court ordered Three Arrows' BVI branch into liquidation earlier this week.

CoinDesk - Unknown