Monday, June 25, 2018
Opinion

Column: Innovation, safety in digital currencies (w/video)

If you follow financial news, you have seen extensive reports on bitcoins and probably the recent coverage of Mt. Gox, an international bitcoin exchange that spiraled into bankruptcy, resulting in substantial losses to bitcoin owners.

Virtual currencies such as bitcoin have garnered attention worldwide, for good reason. These currencies move unchecked, and regulators are seeking a way forward with respect to these diverse and decentralized payment mechanisms. However, virtual monies are simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to emerging payment mechanisms.

Payment innovations — such as mobile banking, bitcoin and other virtual currencies, Square, Simple and the like — are the focus of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors' Emerging Payments Task Force. The CSBS created the task force in recognition of the changes in the payments structure and so states could take a leadership role in shaping the innovations and evolution of payment systems.

I am proud to represent Florida as a member of this pioneering group. We recently had our first meeting with other task force members from eight states to share introductions and thoughts on these developing payment systems.

We are hoping to identify the scope of emerging payments and changes coming to payment systems both domestically and globally. The task force will study these while engaging with a broad range of experts including federal regulators, industry participants and other professionals to gain their perspectives and understand how these diverse technologies affect the stability of payment systems and the broader financial marketplace. We hope to engage consumers and consumer advocates to assess and incorporate their concerns and requirements into the framework we develop.

An additional focus is protecting consumers, which is one of the top priorities of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and this aspect was dramatically confirmed with the bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, which resulted in losses in excess of $400 million.

Ensuring that we have the best information available, as well as an understanding of the evolving payments structure, will position our group to make the most informed decisions — and that takes time. Far too often, hasty reactions creating new policy and regulations have unintended, negative consequences.

Such consequences can stifle innovation, restrict development, and harm the interests of consumers. It is not the goal of the task force or my office to react hastily, but to consider the viewpoints across the spectrum of the financial services industry, and encourage open-minded ideas and innovation.

Within six months, I hope that Florida, along with our peers on the task force, will have developed a virtual skeleton describing the evolving structure of the new payment systems and marketplace. Then we can begin to develop ideas about the emerging — and rapidly shifting — payments landscape to start building the financial regulatory fabric.

I believe that one of our most important goals will be to encourage innovation, not hinder it, and to ensure that the citizens of our state and nation can safely operate in and benefit from such innovation.

Digital currencies are a small portion of a much larger equation, and these payment systems are not simply the latest craze — they are here to stay. The sooner we embrace these modernizations and challenge ourselves to learn more about how they fit into the marketplace, the better off we will be.

Drew J. Breakspear is commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, www.flofr.com. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18