Ben Lawsky is resigning as superintendent of financial services in New York. The New York Times says he plans to open his own firm and lecture at Stanford University. The Post reports that he will consult on digital currencies such as Bitcoin.
The move West suggests that Lawsky may want a piece of the action in Silicon Valley. If he does, it’s worth noting that the action is not in New York.
Lawsky was a leading Bitcoin antagonist. Bitcoin has not particularly flourished in New York, and Lawsky’s work makes it unlikely that New York will be a Bitcoin-friendly jurisdiction.
Ben Lawsky welcomed Bitcoin in August 2013 by sending out subpoenas to everyone in the Bitcoin world. He went on television talking about the “real dangers” of Bitcoin, including use by “narco-terrorists.” (Asked for evidence of Bitcoin misuse, he cited a centralized digital currency called Liberty Reserve, which is not Bitcoin.)
Around the same time, Lawsky precipitously announced a plan for a special “BitLicense.” Shortly after producing it, his office violated New York’s Freedom of Information Law by refusing to release the research and analysis that it claimed to have done to validate the regulation. The NYDFS found that the BitLicense would have no impact on employment in the state, after which investors poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Bitcoin companies outside of New York. (See my comments to the NYDFS for more.)