Steptoe Spearheads Launch of Blockchain Alliance

(October 22, 2015, Washington, DC) — Steptoe & Johnson LLP has been retained to serve as counsel to the Blockchain Alliance, a public-private forum announced today and formed by the Bitcoin community to help combat criminal activity involving bitcoin and the blockchain.  Founded by the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center, the Blockchain Alliance is comprised of a broad coalition of companies and other institutions that have come together to address public safety concerns about digital currencies and the blockchain.

The Blockchain Alliance will serve as a resource for law enforcement to benefit from the expertise of some of the brightest minds in the blockchain industry for technical assistance in response to challenges faced during investigations.  The Alliance will also serve as a forum for open dialogue between law enforcement and the Bitcoin community about issues of concern to make the blockchain more secure and to deter its use for unlawful purposes.

To operate the Blockchain Alliance, the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center have retained the financial technology team at Steptoe, including Jason Weinstein, the former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of cybercrime investigations at the Department of Justice and a member of the strategic advisory boards of BitFury, Coin Center and the Chamber of Digital Commerce.  Mr. Weinstein will serve as director of the Blockchain Alliance.  Also providing counsel from Steptoe is Alan Cohn, the most recent assistant secretary for strategy at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Weinstein commented:  “This is an industry-driven effort, and we are proud to be a part of it.  The companies participating in this initiative are not only good companies, but they are also good corporate citizens.  For the blockchain to thrive, the industry must work together to correct the misperception of bitcoin as the ‘currency of criminals.’  By helping law enforcement agencies address public safety concerns about bitcoin and other digital currencies, we can foster an environment in which the full potential of the blockchain can be realized.  Thanks to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center for their leadership in this important effort.”

Along with the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center, industry participants include MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative and developer Gavin Andresen, BitFinex, BitFury, BitGo, Bitnet, BitPay, BitStamp, Blockchain, Bloq, Circle, CoinBase, CoinX, ItBit, Kraken, Noble Markets, and Xapo.

“The industry’s establishment of the Blockchain Alliance is a key step in fostering an approach to enforcement and regulation that supports innovation and the growth of Bitcoin and the blockchain,” said Mr. Cohn.  “Helping to address law enforcement concerns about this technology is an important part of that effort, and the Blockchain Alliance will fill a critical role by continuing to establish and build trust between the industry and government.”

The Blockchain Alliance is engaged with the Department of Justice, including the FBI and the US Marshals Service, the US Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and plans to engage with other US and foreign agencies as well.

Perianne Boring, president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, said:  “It’s no secret that Bitcoin has perception issues, which is a roadblock to mainstream adoption.  Having an open dialogue with law enforcement and policymakers will help reduce anxiety about this transformative technology.  This initiative goes hand-in-hand with the Chamber’s mission of promoting a regulatory approach that supports innovation, jobs and investment.  Getting criminals off the blockchain is not only good for public safety -- it’s good for business.”

Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, added:  “We look forward to partnering with the other participating companies and organizations to ensure that the capacity of Bitcoin and the blockchain to benefit so many is not overshadowed by the potential for misuse by a few.  Working together, we can promote an approach to enforcement and regulation that supports, rather than stifles, innovation.”

About the Blockchain Alliance

The Blockchain Alliance is a nonprofit organization formed to serve as a public-private forum for the Bitcoin community and federal law enforcement agencies.  The Blockchain Alliance serves as a resource to help combat criminal activity on the blockchain.  For more information please visit: www.BlockchainAlliance.org.

About Steptoe

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is an international law firm widely recognized for vigorous advocacy in complex litigation and arbitration, successful representation of clients before governmental agencies, and creative and practical advice in guiding business transactions.  The firm has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, Phoenix and Washington.  For more information, visit www.steptoe.com.