Lawmakers examine the dangers and potential of blockchain

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On Thursday, cryptocurrency will go to Congress for the first time ever. But the hearing is also notable because of the remarkable lineup of experts — an anomaly in Washington.

Experts include Josh Balch, the chief investment officer at Digital Currency Group; Rajeev Singh, a bitcoin journalist and speaker; and Ken Muth, an entrepreneur and founder of DX Blockchain. They will appear alongside the government’s top representatives, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.

They are all slated to testify about the dangers and potential of blockchain technology, an open-source technology that powers cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether.

Lawmakers will be careful to walk a fine line between recognising the potential of blockchain and its underlying technology, bitcoin, and conducting what is expected to be a very sensitive, thorough grilling.

“It’s a good opportunity to bring as many people as we can from the public to the table in order to participate in this really important piece of legislation,” said Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican who serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

If the US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell was invited to testify before the House Financial Services Committee in recent years, for example, many would argue that the docket is now more laid-back. But the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, is taking a more hands-on approach to the Bitcoin Reform Act, which seeks to regulate virtual currencies.

“There are times where you can sort of hold [relevant hearings] behind closed doors, and you can hold an oversight hearing, and at the end of the day the hearings have no value,” said David Parrish, a finance professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “But if you have a lot of moving parts and you’re a big company and you’re a very important entity, [and] every little thing needs to be public, it does have a value.”

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