Financial Trade Group Head Voices Support for Bitcoin

In a Wall Street Journal interview discussing the electronic payments industry's record on innovation, Electronic Transactions Association CEO Jason Oxman said there's room for Bitcoin to become a bigger financial force—and he opened the door for Bitcoin companies to become ETA members.

The head of a leading financial trade group is keeping an eye on the industry’s future—and if that future means Bitcoin, so be it.

In comments to the Wall Street Journal, Electronic Transactions Association CEO Jason Oxman gave a show of support to the digital currency, which has had its share of tumultuous times in its relatively short existence.

“ETA’s position on Bitcoin and alternative currencies today is that they have a right to exist and they should comply with whatever laws [or] regulations apply to payment companies that offer services akin to … what they are offering,” Oxman said, emphasizing that there should be a “level playing field” for such currencies. He even suggested that it might be possible for Bitcoin-related companies to join ETA someday.

The insight came in an interview focused on innovation, in which Oxman said the electronic payments field differs significantly from other industries in how it approaches disruptive technologies that could threaten the landscape. Short version: Bring them on.

“Unlike most incumbent industries, the payments industry is embracing the innovation that is taking place in technology,” he said, noting that some of its big-name members—Visa and Mastercard—have invested heavily in the future of payments, such as near-field communication and mobile-payments technologies like Square.

As Bitcoin-focused publication CoinDesk notes, however, Oxman wasn’t entirely bright on the topic. He noted that the currency has significant security issues and few consumer protections.

Bitcoin Controversy Lingers

Oxman’s conditional support of the currency comes at the end of a shaky few months for the Bitcoin Foundation, the trade group that represents the budding crypto-currency in Washington.

The group’s sitting vice chairman, Charlie Shrem, was arrested on money laundering charges in January, leading to his resignation. A month later, another board member, Mark Karpeles, saw his Mt. Gox currency exchange go belly-up after hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoins disappeared from the exchange. As a result, Karpeles resigned from the board.

(In his comments, ETA’s Oxman cited the Mt. Gox bankruptcy as a major factor holding up the currency’s wide use.)

More recently, a newly elected director, former child actor Brock Pierce, has faced scrutiny over ties to a sex scandal involving his former company, the Digital Entertainment Network. Some members of the Bitcoin foundation resigned in protest when Pierce was appointed. Pierce denies the allegations, which date back to 2000, and he remains on the board.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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