Below is a summary of some of the significant legal and regulatory actions that occurred over the past week. This alert is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all such developments, but rather a selection of publicly-reported news that may be of particular interest.
North Carolina Exempts Certain Bitcoin Businesses from Regulation
North Carolina issued exemptions this week under the North Carolina Money Transmitters Act for certain bitcoin businesses. Specifically, non-financial blockchain related businesses and multi-sig and non-custodial wallet providers are exempt from the licensing requirements. Exchangers that sell their own stock of virtual currency, as opposed to those that hold customer funds to arrange a third-party buy/sell order, are likewise not regulated because they are not receiving and transmitting currency on behalf of another. Details regarding the exemptions can be found on the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks FAQ at www.nccob.gov.
Department of Homeland Security Seeking Proposals on Blockchain Applications for Homeland Security Analytics
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is accepting research proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for blockchain technology that could aid the DHS in improving its analytics. Blockchain technology represents two of the ten topic areas requested by the DHS: “Applicability of Blockchain Technology to Privacy Respecting Identity Management” and “Blockchain Applications for Homeland Security Analytics.”
Kenya: Kenyan High Court Denies BitPesa’s Petition to Access M-Pesa
The Kenyan High Court denied BitPesa’s petition to require Safaricom to grant BitPesa access to M-Pesa during their pending legal dispute. Until it lost access to M-Pesa in mid-November, BitPesa enabled Kenyans to accept bitcoin remittances from abroad into their M-Pesa account, exchange between bitcoin and shillings, and buy bitcoin using M-Pesa. While the court did not dismiss BitPesa’s pending lawsuit against Safaricom, it did opine that BitPesa is engaged in money remittance and would fall under the category of a money transmission business. This ruling comes amid a statement by the Central Bank of Kenya that bitcoin and other virtual currencies are not legal tender and that consumers should not transact with bitcoin because it is not regulated.