The Digital Assets Policy Project hosts a variety of seminars, workshops, and events featuring some of the top minds in the world of cryptocurrency and public policy.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2024
hAS NEW YORK STATE BECOME THE LEADER IN U.S. DIGINTAL ASSETS REGULATION? A CONVERSATION WITH ADRIENNE HARRIS, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE NEW YORK DEPARTMANT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES; TIMOTHY MASSAD, HKS, DIRECTOR, DIGITAL ASSETS POLICY PROJECT; AND PROF. HOWELL JACKSON, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

 

The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) is undoubtedly the leading state regulator of financial services, and arguably has eclipsed the importance of Washington in some areas. With Congress unable to pass crypto legislation, and the SEC and CFTC focust only on enforcement, NYDFS has implemented virtual currency regulations, including BitLicense, pertaining to trading platforms, stablecoins, custody, and other aspects. NYDFS also regulates banks - it was the lead regulator for Signature Bank and was responsible for seizing and closing it in March 2023. It has also been at the forefront of regulators thinking about the implications of AI.

Adrienne A. Harris joined NYDFS in September 2021. Prior to joining NYDFS, she served as Senior Advisor to Deputy Treasury Secretary, Sarah Bloom Raskin, and later joined the National Economic Council where she managed the financial services portfolio for President Obama. She also served as a Professor and Faculty Co-Director at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's Center on Finance, Law, and Policy.

Thursday, November 9, 2023, 12:00-1:30pm
 

How significant is crypto as a source of financing for terrorism, and what tools do authorities have to prevent its use for illicit purposes? There have been conflicting reports regarding the significance of this source of funding following the Hamas attacks against Israel. Similarly, while there were concerns about whether crypto could be used to avoid U.S. sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of the Ukraine, a senior government official said it was “not a workaround". Many crypto proponents note that the transparency of the blockchain makes crypto less attractive to criminals than other means, but many in Congress remain concerned. Shlomit Wagman, Research Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government (M-RCBG) and formerly Chair of the Israeli Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Prohibition Authority; Dara Daniels, Head of Research and Analysis at the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) ; and Timothy Massad, Director of the M-RCBG Digital Assets Policy Project and formerly chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, discussed the international legal framework with respect to preventing the funding of terrorism, how that framework is being applied to virtual assets, and what can be done to strengthen that framework. ​

Tuesday, October 31, 2023
12-1pm, Rubenstein Carr Conference Room

 

New technology is rapidly changing how we consume financial products and services: from everyday payments, to student and mortgage loans, to how we save for retirement. Yet by itself, there is no guarantee that this technology will deliver on the promise of a faster, safer, and more inclusive financial system. Professor Dan Awrey, author of the forthcoming book Bad Money:  Technology, Regulation and Gresham's New Law, discussed the importance of financial network governance and how we can use it to harness technology in pursuit of the public good.

THursday, October 26, 2023, 6:00-7:30PM
Harvard Business School, Aldrich Room 112

 

The Digital Data Design Institute at Harvard hosted a panel of industry leaders to discuss how Web3 technologies will change the course of the internet from a business, culture and society perspective. The event featured Industry Leaders from Web3.

Alex Tapscott is a globally renowned writer and speaker, having co-authored Blockchain Revolution. He recently co-authored another book, Web3: Charting the Internet’s Next Economic and Cultural Frontier.

John Wu is the President of Ava Labs, a blockchain infrastructure company building on top of the Avalanche Protocol. Prior to Ava Labs, John was an early internet investor and entrepreneur. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Monday and Tuesday, October 23 & 24, 2023, 7:00-9:00pm
Wexner 434AB Conference Room

This hybrid hands-on workshop covered the basics of Web3 - no previous background knowledge required.

Instructor: Steve Derezinski, who has taught Blockchain Ventures at MIT Media Lab, Babson and MIT Bitcoin club, and has been involved in Blockchains since 2016. The workshop is based on the semester-long classes he taught. He has an S.B. in mechanical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Sloan.

Session 1 (Oct. 23): Overview of Web3, blockchain and crypto. Get a wallet and explore the Web3 world.

Slides

Session 2 (Oct. 24): Create a DAO (online business), mint your own token, offer it for sale and begin trading it live.

Slides

This workshop does not constitute and will not offer investment or legal advice. The Digital Assets Policy Project is not encouraging anyone to invest in crypto-assets, which are largely unregulated, volatile in price, and pose a high risk of loss. This workshop is offered for the purpose of helping students understand how the technology works, not to promote its use for investment or any other purpose.

September 19, 2023

On August 7, 2023, PayPal announced it was launching a stablecoin. This is the first time that a traditional financial institution has entered the stablecoin sector, and one of the first times a traditional financial institution has made a major commitment to using decentralized blockchain technology for a core financial process.

To date, a lot of the activity in the crypto world has simply revolved around itself and has had little connection to the real economy. Stablecoins have grown popular as a means of trading crypto, but their use outside of crypto has been quite limited. What does PayPal hope to achieve with its stablecoin, and how will it be used? Why does PayPal believe crypto technology can bring significant benefits to a traditional financial service, payments?

PayPal’s action also triggered immediate and diverse reactions from members of Congress—with some saying this showed the innovative potential of the technology, and others critical because of the lack of a federal regulatory framework for stablecoins. How will PayPal’s stablecoin be regulated, and how will its action affect the debate about regulation? How is PayPal’s action similar to or different from Meta’s (then Facebook) attempt to launch Libra?

Jose Fernandez de la Ponte, PayPal’s senior vice president and general manager for blockchain, crypto and digital currencies, discussed these issues and took questions.

april 25, 2023

The Harvard Blockchain for Impact Workshop was a half-day event that explored the potential of blockchain technology to promote positive social change in three domains: International Development, Public Goods, and Regenerative Economy.

The workshop offered a unique opportunity for academics, researchers, and practitioners to critically explore the most promising approaches for using decentralized technologies and blockchain to promote positive social impact. Through a combination of presentations and interactive sessions, attendees engaged in rigorous debate and analysis of the opportunities and challenges of blockchain technology, including discussions of the technical, economic, and social implications.

The event was hosted by Harvard Belfer Center's Technology and Public Purpose Project.

The Technology and Public Purpose Project would like to thank Polygon Labs and Impact Plus for their help coordinating the workshop.

Visit by European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness: The Future of Finance: The EU-US Relationship in Sustainable and Digital Finance
April 12, 2023, Harvard Law School

The Harvard European Law Association hosted an address by the Irish European Union Commissioner, Mairead McGuinness. She was joined by Professor Howell E. Jackson for a conversation on the EU-US relationship in sustainable and digital finance.

Mairead McGuinness is the European Union Commissioner for Financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union.

april 11, 2023

The collapse of the crypto trading firm FTX and other crypto failures in 2022 have been followed by criminal prosecutions and enforcement actions against crypto firms. But many crypto enthusiasts complain that there is too much "regulation by enforcement," and that there is a need for "regulatory clarity" through development of specific, new rules for crypto. Others believe the recent failures—which have caused significant investor losses-- highlight the need for more aggressive enforcement of existing laws. Jay Clayton was chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2016-2020, and, among other things, led the SEC's effort to crack down on internet coin offerings or ICOs. He also has been an advocate for accommodating truly stable "stablecoins" in our financial system. He discussed whether the United States is taking the right actions and what needs to be done.

April 4, 2023

Over the last two decades, India has built the world's largest digital biometric identity and real-time payment systems. Its use of digital technology has enabled India to achieve financial inclusion for 85% of its population—when only 20% had access to formal banking a decade ago. The key building blocks are the Aadhar digital identity system, which has issued a biometric identification number to 1.3 billion people, or 99% of the population, and the Unified Payment Interface or UPI, an instant payment system that is used by citizens throughout the country, even for very small purchases. As the New York Times recently reported, “Billions of mobile app transactions — a volume dwarfing anything in the West — course each month through a homegrown digital network that has made business easier and brought large numbers of Indians into the formal economy.” Dr. Pramod Varma, chief architect of Aadhar and other elements of India’s “digital stack,” will speak about what India did and what other countries can learn from its innovations.

Dr. Pramod Varma is currently the CTO of EkStep, a not-for-profit organization creating learner-centric technology enabled platform designed to provide learning opportunities to 200 million children in India. He is an advisor to the National Payment Corporation (NPCI), the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), and helps with many digital public infrastructure initiatives.

See also:

Divya Goel and Dr. Pramod Varma, “From Platforms to Protocols: India’s Story of Leapfrogging Financial Inclusion,” https://medium.com/digitalhks/from-platforms-to-protocols-indias-story-of-leapfrogging-financial-inclusion-c5c127ec57a2

Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, “Where Digital Payments, Even for a 10-Cent Chai, Are Colossal in Scale,” The New York Times, March 1, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/01/business/india-digital-payments-upi.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare

March 30 - April 2, 2023

Hosted by the student blockchain clubs of Harvard College, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Kennedy School, this conference brought together students across various fields of study including CS, business, law, and policy. Attendees engaged with industry leaders on a range of topics including Web3, infrastructure, institutional adoption, and the evolving regulatory environment and explore career opportunities. For details, follow this link.

Conversation with Mathew McDermott, Global Head of Digital Assets at Goldman Sachs

On March 2, 2023, The HLS Blockchain & Fintech Initiative, the HBS Blockchain Club, and the HKS Digital Innovation and Fintech Club sponsored a conversation with Mathew McDermott, Global Head of Digital Assets at Goldman Sachs regarding how digital ledger technologies and the digitization of financial assets will change the global financial systems in the coming decades.

next steps to the future of money and payments: how policymakers can respond to president Biden's EO on digital assets, washington dc

 

On March 1, 2023, The Digital Assets Policy Project, together with the Atlantic Council, the MIT Digital Currency Initiative and the Stanford Future of Digital Currency Initiative, sponsored a meeting to bring together senior government officials, academics and NGO leaders to discuss the status of improving the nation's payment system, on the anniversary of the issuance of the Biden Administration's Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets (on the one year anniversary). Although the meeting itself was closed, there was a public webinar portion during which Treasury Under Secretary Nellie Liang gave remarks and engaged in discussion about US leadership in the development of central bank digital currencies, a recording of which can be found here.

Global Views on Crypto: Ban It, Embrace It, or Regulate It?

On February 24, 2023, Bo Li, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, discussed how some countries are making very different choices in their policies toward crypto assets, from China which has banned crypto, to El Salvador which has made bitcoin legal tender, to the many following a middle ground. What accounts for the differences, and what are the monetary and financial policy considerations?

On February 2 and 9, 2023, The Digital Assets Policy Project hosted a two-part hybrid hands-on workshop that covered the basics of Web3. Participants learned how to get a wallet and self-custody digital assets. Participants also learned how to create their own token and their own decentralized autonomous organization.

Instructor: Steve Derezinski, who has taught Blockchain Ventures at MIT Media Lab, Babson and MIT Bitcoin club, and has been involved in Blockchains since 2016. The workshop is based on the semester-long classes he taught. He has an S.B. in mechanical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Sloan.

Session 1 Slides

Session 2 Slides

On November 30, 2022, the Digital Assets Policy Project hosted an all-day roundtable on stablecoin regulation. It was attended by approximately two dozen people, consisting of senior officials of the Biden Administration, leaders of stablecoin issuers and traditional financial institutions that have a significant presence in payments, lawyers with expertise in payments and digital assets, and leading academics. The focus was to discuss what a regulatory framework should look like if we were to create one in order to bring stablecoins within the regulatory perimeter. A summary of the discussion (conducted under Chatham House rules) is attached, along with a summary of various stablecoin regulatory proposals and a summary of terms of existing stablecoins or similar instruments. The latter two documents were provided as background and not as the focus of the discussion.

Stablecoin Regulation Roundtable Summary

Comparison of Stablecoin Proposals

Comparison of Outstanding Stablecoins

Professor Howell Jackson (HLS) and Timothy Massad, director of the M-RCBG Digital Assets Policy Project and former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, discuss the current state of crypto regulation and the various ways that Congress is considering changing it. Will Congress pass legislation to regulate stablecoins in the lame duck session? Will the CFTC be given greater authority over the trading of crypto assets? Will Congress try to clarify or alter the powers of the SEC over crypto? They also discuss the implications of the nine reports on digital assets issued this fall by the Biden Administration under its Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets.

The Biden Administration has recently issued a report calling for more research and development with respect to a central bank digital currency (CBDC) or digital dollar, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is working with MIT to develop a hypothetical CBDC platform.  But there are those at the Federal Reserve Board as well as in Congress that oppose development of a CBDC.  Meanwhile, Europe is moving more aggressively in its research and development of a CBDC, but there are different views about the purpose and design of a digital euro.  Featuring M-RCBG Research Fellows Jean-Pierre Landau & Timothy Massad

The Harvard National Security Journal hosted a symposium on Digital Currencies and National Security on Friday, October 14, 2022 at Harvard Law School.  Although the event was not recorded, the transcripts of the remarks from the session on whether the U.S. needs a digital dollar by Daleep Singh, former Deputy National Security Advisor, and Federal Reserve Board Governor Christopher Waller on whether the U.S. needs a digital dollar are available at the following links:

Former deputy NSA Daleep Singh’s argument for a digital dollar 

The U.S. Dollar and Central Bank Digital Currencies - Governor Christopher J. Waller

The Future of Money & Payments w/ Nellie Liang, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance. September 22, 2022

Read the newly released The Future of Money and Payments Report here