The United States Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a legal advisory notice advising employees of the US executive branch to disclose their cryptocurrency holdings.
The notice declared that virtual currency is “property held … for investment or the production of income” and therefore must be disclosed.
The advisory recognizes potential conflicts of interest may arise through government employees owning crypto assets, stating, “Virtual currency is an investment asset and, like other property held for investment, it may create a conflict of interest for employees who own it.”
The OGE clarified that it does not consider virtual currency a ‘real’ currency or legal tender, but in line with The Internal Revenue Service it is treated as property, rather than as currency for tax purposes.
“OGE recognizes that virtual currencies are experiencing a surge in use and access, and as a result, employees who hold virtual currencies are increasingly seeking guidance from their ethics officials concerning their financial disclosure reporting obligations,”
The advisory goes on to say that virtual currency is a “relatively new and still evolving financial instrument whose final form and function may yet change” and that OGE may have to issue further guidance as virtual currencies and their uses evolve.
Some nominees for federal positions have already been disclosing their bitcoin holdings out of an abundance of caution in the run-up to Monday’s announcement. According to the National Law Journal, Brent McIntosh, the Sullivan & Cromwell partner that President Donald Trump nominated as general counsel to the US Treasury Department, disclosed that he held bitcoin valued at between $1,001 and $15,000. Jessie Liu, a former Morrison & Foerster partner who is now the US attorney for the District of Columbia, likewise disclosed bitcoin valued at between $1,001 and $15,000.
The full notice can be found here.