Bitcoin Boom Spurs Wells Fargo Summit on Virtual Currencies

Bitcoin Boom Spurs Wells Fargo Summit on Virtual CurrenciesThe nation’s fourth-largest bank by assets and the biggest mortgage lender wants to know more about bitcoin and the de-centralized world of virtual currencies.
The bank convened a private summit in the San Francisco area Tuesday with experts talking about cryptocurrencies, affiliated payment services and other bitcoin-related businesses to give Wells Fargo a fuller picture of the fast-evolving and misunderstood digital movement.
“We had a gathering of internal and external experts and interested people to learn more about virtual currencies, including Bitcoin,” said Mary Eshet, a spokeswoman for  Wells Fargo.
Congress held hearings on the bitcoin ecosystem in November, with banking industry representatives and regulators urging regulations of digital currencies to further protect from illicit transactions, particularly money laundering.
Bitcoin, and other “altcoins”, or alternative virtual currencies such as Litecoin, have been the target of surging media attention and controversy over the last year, due largely to the volatile exchange rate between bitcoins and fiat (official) currencies.
Bitcoin has acquired a dark reputation from its use in an online underground drug market that has been shut down and the ability to transact anonymously on the bitcoin network.
However, U.S. regulatory and law enforcement officials seem to recognize bitcoin as a legitimate component of e-commerce with innovative applications and much positive potential.
Bitcoin-related startups are sprouting quickly, backed by substantial venture capital, as entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley outfits and business incubators see virtual currencies as revolutionizing e-commerce and peer-to-peer transactions.
However, banks have been reluctant to do business with bitcoin startups because it is perceived as requiring high anti-money laundering compliance risk, and many bitcoin-related businesses have struggled to obtain or keep bank accounts.

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