fintech

Congress looks at taxes, oversight, crime in fintech bills
Lawmakers focus on fostering innovation while ensuring technology isn’t abused

Companies that facilitate bitcoin payments, called merchant services providers, received $158 billion in bitcoin last year, which was just about 1 percent of the economic activity on bitcoin’s blockchain, according to Chainalysis, which analyses such transactions. (Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images photo illustration)

Corrected 4:25 p.m. | Cryptocurrencies involve cutting-edge technology, but Congress is aiming at age-old problems when it comes to financial technology legislation: taxation, crime and jurisdiction to set the rules.

A review of the latest fintech-related bills by CQ Roll Call shows lawmakers’ latest efforts are focused on fostering innovation by some and making sure the technology isn’t abused by others.

Majority of election sites in battleground states lack validation, McAfee finds
Local government election-related websites lack the .gov domain

A Board of Elections official places signs around the One Judiciary Square building as District of Columbia residents head to the polls for the first day of early voting in the 2014 general election at the Board of Elections headquarters in Washington on Oct. 20, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A vast majority of election-related websites operated by local governments in battleground states lack a key feature that would help distinguish them from those run by commercial entities or criminal hackers — a site that ends in .gov as opposed to .com or other extensions, according to cybersecurity research firm McAfee.

Of 1,117 counties in 13 key states, which account for 201 of the 270 Electoral College votes that determine the winner of presidential contests, 83.3 percent didn’t have the .gov validation, McAfee found. 

Wall Street czar Linda Lacewell takes on regulation
Fintech Beat, Ep. 38

Linda Lacewell, superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

When it comes to regulating Wall Street, perhaps no one person is more important than Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services. On her one year anniversary in office, she talks with Fintech Beat about changes to the BitLicense, the Apple Pay card and her 2020 priorities.

HHS cheers overdose drop but urges states to cap Medicaid
Administration proposes capped Medicaid funding in exchange for added flexibility

(Ian Wagreich/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House announced the first decline in overdose deaths since the earliest days of the opioid crisis and attributed it to administration actions, even as officials simultaneously said they would let states cap funding for Medicaid, a common way for patients to get treatment.

A 4 percent dip in the number of overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018 could indicate that the crest of the opioid crisis has passed, said White House senior aide Kellyanne Conway, who called the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data a “turning point.”

House panel asks whether legislation can keep cash as king
Electronic payments taking greater market share

Rep. Donald Payne, D-Md., is backing legislation to ban cashless stores. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

At some uncertain point in the future, printing cash may be a waste of money. As Americans increasingly rely on credit cards, online transfers, mobile apps and cryptocurrencies to complete transactions, a House panel debated Thursday the promise and potential pitfalls of a cashless society.  

In recent years, some stores have decided they’d rather not ask “paper or plastic?” to customers at checkout. Instead, they’ve gone cash free, accepting only smartphone apps like Apple Pay, mobile payments like Venmo, or debit and credit cards.

Subpoena for Bolton’s unpublished book would likely face fierce resistance
Intellectual property rights among issues that could entangle legislative branch, publisher

The forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton could lead to a protracted fight if it is subpoenaed in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. (Win McNamee/Getty Images file photo)

Congress could subpoena the manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book on his time in the White House, but such a move could raise concerns about intellectual property rights and lead to a fight between lawmakers and Bolton and his publishers.

“Either [chamber] of Congress has the ability to subpoena records, including unpublished manuscripts,” said Chris Armstrong, the former chief oversight counsel for the Senate Finance Committee.

Courts, without law for guidance, setting value of cryptoassets
Judges determining currency values receive little input from policymakers focused on other issues

Inconsistent classifications and ill-formed definitions of bitcoin and other digital assets are being left to the judiciary to sort out. (AFP via Getty Images)

Bankruptcy judges are used to deciding the value of assets, but for cryptocurrencies, which can halve or double in value in a matter of months, determining how much one party is owed gets tricky.

It’s an issue that could be mitigated by regulators or lawmakers, but despite myriad efforts focusing on digital assets this year, U.S. bankruptcy judges are unlikely to get much guidance, according to several lawyers who track the cryptocurrency industry.

Pentagon using artificial intelligence to track wildfires, study chaos of combat
Head of military AI office promises more money for 2021 budget

National Guard helicopters drop water on a wildfire near Ojai, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2017. The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has been working with the National Guard to track natural disasters using AI tools. (David McNew/Getty Images file photo)

One year ago, Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan became the first director of a new Pentagon office created to act as a clearinghouse for all of the U.S. military’s work on artificial intelligence. Among a raft of near-term projects the office has taken up is one deploying computer vision technology to track and combat wildfires. 

Taking tools developed for Project Maven, an initiative to analyze and identify objects on the ground from videos shot by aerial drones during the fight against the Islamic State, the Pentagon’s office known as the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has been working with National Guard units combating wildfires in California and hurricanes elsewhere.

Bitcoin Intermediaries
Fintech Beat, ep. 37

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: A visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on October 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Big business, tech, health care lead K Street spending in 2019
Spending was highest in fourth quarter as Congress passed budget bills and updated NAFTA

Lobbyists say they’re looking at a post-impeachment crunch on major legislative priorities this year before the elections consume lawmakers’ attentions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Big business, big tech and medical interests were K Street’s top players last year as those industries spent millions of dollars on federal lobbying in the final months of 2019, while lawmakers and the administration wrapped up spending and trade measures.

With the 2020 elections expected to consume lawmakers’ attention this summer and fall, lobbyists say they’re looking at a post-impeachment crunch on major 2020 priorities. Some clients already are gaming out a possible lame-duck session as well as a potentially revamped federal government in 2021.