US government officials who privately own cryptocurrencies are now banned from working on regulations and policies that could affect the value of digital assets.
A new advisory notice released by the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on Tuesday stated that the de minimis exemption — which allows for the owners of securities who hold an amount below a certain threshold to work on policy related to that security — is universally inapplicable when it comes to cryptocurrencies and stablecoins.
“As a result, an employee who holds any amount of a cryptocurrency or stablecoin may not participate in a particular matter if the employee knows that particular matter could have a direct and predictable effect on the value of their cryptocurrency or stablecoins.”
The notice provided an example scenario whereby an employee who owns a mere $100 of a certain stablecoin, is asked to work on stablecoin regulation — the employee in question cannot participate in work concerning regulation “until and unless they divest their interests in [that] stablecoin.”
The notice specified that this ruling still applies even if the cryptocurrency or stablecoin in question were to ever “constitute [a security] for purposes of the federal or state securities laws.”
The new ruling applies universally to all federal government employees including The White House, The Federal Reserve and The Department of the Treasury.
The term “de minimis” comes from a longer Latin phrase, meaning: “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”
Related: Self-regulatory organizations growing alongside new US crypto regulation
The only exemption from the OGE’s crackdown on crypto ownership is that policy makers are allowed to hold up to $50,000 in mutual funds that invest broadly in companies that would benefit from crypto and blockchain technology. The reasoning for this exemption is because they “are considered diversified funds.”
Despite the seemingly harsh rules concerning employee investment in the crypto sector, the United States continues to move forward in integrating the cryptocurrency industry, with the US president Joe Biden announcing a “whole-of-government” approach to regulation concerning the digital asset sector.
According to Raymond Hsu, the co-founder and CEO of Cabital, recent legislative proposals could make the U.S. one the only Western countries to fully regulate and accept stablecoins and other digital assets as official parts of the financial system.