On July 17, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) proposed a rule intended to govern the virtual currency marketplace. The proposed rule is extremely broad and as currently drafted would appear to capture products provided by traditional brick and mortar banks and other regulated financial institutions. For example, as proposed, the rule could regulate:

  • Reward programs, “thank you” offers, or digital coupons that offer cash back or statement credits;
  • Generated numbers that access cash;
  • Prepaid access and other cards that will allow customers to receive cash, including those customarily exempt such as government funded transfers;
  • P2P transfers; and
  • Wallet providers where the customer can access cash.

If left unaddressed, these apparent unintended consequences could create a confusing regulatory environment for certain bank and card products. It is also noteworthy that the rule does not provide any customary exclusions for chartered entities, raising substantial preemption questions.

Businesses engaging in activities covered by the proposed rule would be required to apply for a license from the NYDFS within 45 days of the effective date of the regulation. The proposed rule also sets out comprehensive compliance obligations involving consumer protection, cybersecurity, anti-money laundering, and anti-fraud, and the rule would subject licensed institutions to examination by the NYDFS. Failure to obtain a license could result in disciplinary action by the NYDFS.

The comment period on the proposed rule ends on September 6, 2014.