State Regulators Blast New Hampshire's Bitcoin MSB Exemption

New Hampshire is weighing a bill to exempt bitcoin traders from money transmission laws – and state officials are speaking out against the measure.

AccessTimeIconApr 12, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:14 p.m. UTC
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New Hampshire is weighing a bill to exempt bitcoin traders from money transmission laws – and state officials are speaking out against the measure.

Their argument centers on whether the government of New Hampshire should take a proactive or reactive role in the regulation of money transmitters within the state that use digital currency. The bill, first proposed in mid-January, seeks to exempt "persons conducting business using transactions conducted in whole or in part in virtual currency" from money transmission statutes in the state.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the measure attracted broad support from grassroots stakeholders. And last month, the state's House of Representatives cleared the bill by a 185-170 vote. From there, the proposal moved to the Senate for further deliberation, leading to last week's hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

That hearing drew a number of supporters, including sponsors of the bill as well as activists from New Hampshire. Many of those who spoke before the panel pushed for its passage, arguing the measure would bring benefits to the state, according to a video published by the activist organization Free Keene.

Yet officials from both the New Hampshire Banking Department and Department of Justice spoke against it, appealing to committee members to either oppose the bill or create tighter controls.

Jerry Little, the states's banking commissioner, argued that, if passed into law, the measure would inhibit state regulators from preventing potential financial fraud, comparing the process to plane safety.

Little asked the panel:

"I think the fundamental question here is, do you want the FAA examining the plane before it takes off, or do you want them looking for black boxes after the crash?"

Appearing later, James Boffetti, senior assistant attorney general for New Hampshire's Justice Department, spoke in support of the Banking Department's position, arguing that his agency wouldn't be able to police activity as effectively.

"If you remove this from the jurisdiction of the Banking Department, it default falls to the Department of Justice," he told the panel. "But we don't have the same restitution capacities as the Banking Department. We don't have the expertise."

Image courtesy of Free Keene/YouTube

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