Legal Experts At Token Summit Struggle To Agree On How To Advise In The Grey Areas Of Blockchain Law

Nearly 8 years after the release of Bitcoin as the first iteration of blockchain technology, regulators still have not issued clear compliance guidelines over the industry. Those with legal knowledge in the community are working together in an effort to self-police the industry, hoping that a good faith compliance effort will help regulators recognize that the technology is more often used for good than nefarious reasons.

On May 25, 2017, five of these legal experts gathered for a panel titled “Is Grey the New Normal in Legal and Compliance” at the Token Summit in New York City to discuss their varied understandings of emerging laws over the ecosystem. The common message throughout the panel was clear: while some guidance has emerged to help steer the industry, attorneys (perhaps unsurprisingly) still disagree on how to interpret or advise clients in this legal grey area—including whether to call it a “grey area” at all.

Some of the legal issues discussed included:

The panel wound down with a discussion of whether Charlie Shrem was properly prosecuted under anti-money-laundering laws in 2015, though the panelists never reached any discernable agreement over the matter. The exploration of these issues gave lots of material for attorneys to consider in advising blockchain clients, though the clear disagreement among these experts over these lingering legal questions seems to indicate that perhaps “grey is [indeed] the new normal” for blockchain regulation.