Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is taking the lead on bringing together federal government agencies to coordinate regulation of cryptocurrencies, the chairmen of two financial regulatory commissions said Tuesday.
"The Treasury secretary has been out in front on this. He's formed a virtual currency working group of ourselves, the SEC, the Fed" and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said J. Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He was speaking in response to a question at a hearing on cryptocurrencies held by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Bitcoin has lost half its value this year after surging 2,000 percent in just 12 months to a record high above $19,000 in mid-December. Sales of new digital coins, called initial coin offerings or ICOs, have raised more than $4 billion in sales of new digital coins for projects based on the same blockchain technology behind bitcoin.
However, critics say many of the projects barely exist beyond whitepapers or are outright scams, and both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the CFTC have increased their crackdown on fraudulent schemes.
"We've had a number of preliminary conversations and workstreams developed," Giancarlo said. "We are going to be coordinating our various responses. It's begun with just some broad conversations just establishing our different jurisdictions so we're all clear as to what we're doing, and what we're not doing, where the gaps are."
Giancarlo added that he and Mnuchin have had a number of one-on-one conversations about virtual currencies.
Mnuchin said in a mid-January speech that the Treasury Department's Financial Stability Oversight Council has formed a virtual currency working group, according to CoinDesk. Mnuchin has also said he wants to make sure that "bad people" cannot use bitcoin for illegal activities.
Treasury did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.