US Ethics Office: Government Officials Must Disclose Crypto Holdings

Those working for the executive branch of the U.S. government must disclose their cryptocurrency holdings, ethics officials said Monday.

In a legal advisory released Monday, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) clarified that digital currency is “property held … for investment or the production of income” instead of a “real” currency or legal tender. As a result, the OGE will now require executive branch employees to report holdings of digital currencies because, as outlined later in the release, they “may create a conflict of interest for employees who own it.”

The disclosure requirement is a major move, requiring members of the U.S. executive branch – officials working for the White House as well as the galaxy of federal agencies – to reveal their crypto holdings. Earlier this year, a member of the U.S. Congress submitted a petition seeking similar requirements for federal lawmakers.

The OGE’s document also specifically makes mention of initial coin offerings, or the sale of tokens prior to the launch of a particular network.

“Further, the reporting and conflict of interest principles set forth herein apply equally to other digital assets, such as ‘coins’ or ‘tokens’ received in connection with initial coin offerings or issued or distributed using distributed ledger or blockchain technology,” the OGE wrote.

While the document doesn’t establish when the process began, the OGE indicated that it moved to craft the guidance because government officials have been ” increasingly seeking guidance from their ethics officials concerning their financial disclosure reporting obligations.”

Notably, the OGE suggested that Monday’s release may not be the final word on the subject. In the future, officials wrote, actions by other government agencies could put the guidance in doubt and require further study.

“Given the evolving nature of virtual currency, other regulatory agencies may issue additional findings or guidance that provide further insight into how these assets should be treated for the purposes of the EIGA,” the OGE said.

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