| WASHINGTON, March 19
WASHINGTON, March 19 Companies have inquired in
the past month about regulations that would govern exchanges for
bitcoin derivatives, a top U.S. regulator said on Wednesday, a
sign such virtual currencies could become a more mainstream
Regulators have stepped up their efforts to rein in bitcoin
after incidents such as the collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based
exchange that filed for bankruptcy after losing an estimated
$650 million worth of customer bitcoins.
The novelty of the technology has made it hard for
regulators to categorize bitcoin, but trading derivatives such
as futures or swaps would subject companies to oversight by the
Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
"Let me tell you, (if) they've got a derivatives contract,
we have jurisdiction... and we should regulate it," Bart
Chilton, a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
told Reuters in an interview.
In the past 30 days, a number of companies requested
information to see what the rules were for setting up a market
place to trade bitcoin derivatives, Chilton said.
"These are people that are inquiring about what they should
do if they wanted to request (official) status," he said.
He declined to name the companies, which have not officially
filed any paperwork to get legal status, he said.
Chilton is set to leave the commission on Friday after more
than six years with the regulator.
Unlike conventional money, bitcoin is generated by computers
and is independent of control, or any backing, by a government
or a central bank - something its proponents like, but that also
makes it vulnerable to mishaps.
New York state's top financial services regulator, Benjamin
Lawsky, has been the most vocal about regulating bitcoin, saying
last week that he wants prospective virtual currency exchange
operators to submit formal applications.
The CFTC, which regulates futures and swaps, is also
studying whether it should regulate the new electronic
currencies, its head said last week.
(Reporting by Douwe Miedema; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)