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商业 - 科技

美联储正在悄悄筹划比特币监管规则?

Christopher Matthews 2014年05月23日

美联储顾问委员会的会议备忘录显示,美联储对比特币的兴趣要超过人们之前的想象。

    当美联储(Federal Reserve)主席珍妮特•耶伦本周二宣布美联储无权监管比特币时,许多比特币的粉丝都感到欢欣鼓舞。

    美联储无疑是许多比特币信徒眼中的头号大敌,他们认为美联储对美元的管理太失败了,使得比特币这样一种去中心化货币的建立成为必须。

    但是如果有人认为比特币可以脱离政府监管机构,独自成长成一支全球领先的货币形式,那么这种想法不可谓不幼稚。就连一向鼓吹比特币的知名投资人巴里•希尔伯特都认为,在比特币发展的下一个阶段,可能会有一些华尔街大银行参与进来,通过设置ETF基金或其它金融产品的方式刺激这种货币升值。

    美联储的一个顾问委员会今年五月初的一次会议的备忘录显示,美联储也预见到了类似的趋势,这种趋势将使美联储必须对比特币进行监管。顾问委员会本身没有制订政策的权力,它只能帮助有投票权的美联储官员了解银行业的想法。但是这些备忘录还是可以对未来美联储的比特币政策起到管中窥豹的效果。

    耶伦本周二称,美联储之所以无权监管比特币,是由为比特币属于“银行业之外发生的一次创新”。但如果美联储管理下的银行真的在筹划从事比特币业务,那么耶伦的逻辑就不再站得住脚了。

    美联储的顾问委员会是由银行业的精英组成的,他们自然比旁人更加了解银行业是否有这方面的计划。据备忘录显示,顾问委员会赞同西尔伯特的说法,认为现有银行将在比特币未来的发展过程中扮演重要的角色,包括“如果比特币的采用加速了,尤其是随着多币种账户的激增以及对比特币信用的担忧逐步消减,银行业可以加大参与比特币资金流动的力度。”

    虽然顾问委员会没有具体透露银行业将如何把比特币纳入现有业务,但它对比币特未来对经济的影响表示乐观:

    比特币虽然颠覆了传统的商业渠道,但它并不对经济活动造成威胁,而是可以作为一种利好……它的全球流动性为商家和服务提供者打开了新的市场……在促进资本从发达国家向发展中国家流动的过程中,将起到促进消费的作用。

    显然,美联储的顾问们明白比特币正在走“牛市”。但他们认为比特币作为一种现象还不足以对美国经济造成任何威胁,因此他们称,对比特币“更多地是好奇感而不是威胁感。”他们认为,只有当比特币变得比其它汇款方式更便宜、更快捷、更具地域灵活性的情况下,消费者才会大范围采用比特币。而要达到这个目标,比特币就需要金融服务业的帮助,而不是出离于银行业之外独善其身。

    那么如果消费者和金融机构真的都开始玩比特币了该怎么办?美联储顾问委员会的建议是,像管理其它金融服务产品一样管理比特币,比如用“业务连续性计划要求”监管比特币的交易机构,以及“召开一个预防比特币诈骗的论坛,对比特币的风险和成本进行披露”等等。该顾问委员会还建议比特币中介公司要像银行一样接受反洗钱法规的监管。

    这些措施显然会增加比特币中介企业的成本,而增加的成本最终会转嫁到终端用户身上。由于比特币最大的优势之一就是在线交易的低成本性,因此这些措施无疑会导致有人放弃使用比特币。美联储顾问委员会的备忘录也强调了这一点:比特币技术的流行,正是由于它有能力摆脱政府和现有金融行业在货币和资金流动上扮演的角色。但是比特币要想充分发挥所有的潜力,却显然需要这两者的支持。(财富中文网)

    译者:朴成奎

    When Janet Yellen stated in February that the Federal Reserve had no authority to regulate bitcoin, many fans of the virtual currency were elated.

    After all, for many believers in virtual currency, the Federal Reserve is enemy No. 1, an institution that has so badly mismanaged the U.S. dollar as to necessitate the creation of a decentralized currency like bitcoin.

    But the idea that bitcoin could ascend to the status of a leading global currency without government regulators is naive. Even bitcoin booster and investor Barry Silbert has argued that the next stages of bitcoin's development will involve big Wall Street banks getting in on the action by, for instance, setting up ETFs and other products that will facilitate the currency's rise.

    And recently released minutes from a Federal Reserve Advisory Committee meeting in early May suggest that the Fed foresees a similar trend, which would necessitate federal bitcoin regulation.

    The Advisory Committee can't dictate policy -- it's assembled to help voting Fed officials benefit from and understand the concerns of the banking industry -- but the minutes can shed light on what Fed policy might look like in the future.

    Indeed, even Yellen's argument in February that the Fed didn't have the authority to regulate bitcoin was based on the the idea that currency was an "innovation happening outside the banking industry." If Fed-regulated banks are in fact looking to get involved in bitcoin, this reasoning is no longer valid.

    The Advisory Committee is composed of elite members of the banking industry, so the body is better equipped to understand its plans than most. And according to the minutes, the committee agrees with Silbert that incumbent banks will have a role to play in bitcoin's future, concluding, "Should adoption accelerate, banking could participate increasingly in Bitcoin fund flows, especially as multicurrency accounts proliferate and reputational concerns subside."

    Though the committee didn't offer details on how the banking industry might incorporate bitcoin into its business, it was optimistic about the currency's potential effect on the economy:

    Bitcoin does not present a threat to economic activity by disrupting traditional channels of commerce; rather, it could serve as a boon ... Its global transmissibility opens new markets to merchants and service providers ... Driving capital flows from the developed to the developing world should increase consumption.

    Clearly, the bankers advising the Fed understand the bull case for bitcoin, though they argue that it is still too small a phenomenon to pose any sort of risk to the U.S. economy, calling it "more a curiosity than a threat." They foresee more consumers adopting bitcoin only if it can prove to be cheaper, faster, and more geographically flexible than alternative modes of transmitting money, and they see bitcoin doing this with the help of the financial services industry rather than in spite of it.

    When consumers and the financial industry do come on board, the Committee advises regulating it much like other financial services products, like supervising bitcoin exchanges with "requirements for business continuity planning," and "a forum for fraud prevention and disclosure of bitcoin's risks and costs." It also recommended that bitcoin businesses be subject to anti-money-laundering regulations, just as banks are.

    These measures, of course, could greatly increase costs for companies that deal in bitcoin, costs that would have to be passed on to end users. And since one of the main arguments for bitcoin is its lower costs for online transactions, these measures would surely undercut some of the reason to use it. These minutes underscore a central tension in the bitcoin story: It is a technology whose popularity is tied to its ability to undercut the government and incumbent financial industry's role in currency and money transmission, but one that clearly needs the blessing of both to reach its full potential.

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