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Federal Reserve has no authority to regulate Bitcoin, according to Chairwoman

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Well, it doesn't appear that the Federal Reserve will be stepping in to regulate the volatile virtual currency Bitcoin any time soon. According to the new Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the central banking system has no authority over Bitcoin. In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee she said that, "this is a payment innovation that is taking place entirely outside the banking industry." Without a central issuer or operator it's incredibly difficult to successfully regulate and supervise these types of currencies. Don't think that Bitcoin is untouchable, however. Yellen went on to say that, "it certainly would be appropriate, I think, for Congress to ask questions about what the right legal structure would be for virtual currencies that involve nontraditional players."

Legal efforts to restrict Bitcoin have already taken off in other countries, and Senator Joe Manchin (a Democrat from West Virginia) has suggested banning the crypto-currency in the US. While an outright ban of Bitcoin seems unlikely given its growing acceptance, Japan's Ministry of Finance has indicated that it could work with other nations to establish a set of international regulations. If a set of rules could be agreed upon at an international level, it could prevent people from taking advantage of loopholes that only serve to encourage instability and abuse.

The public posturing and legal wrangling is hardly surprising following the shutdown of Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world. The firm currently holds 744,000 Bitcoins (roughly $423 million), and the future of those funds is shaky at best. Whether or not the currency continues its ascension to legitimacy may rest on the results of the Fed's investigation into Mt. Gox. But it seems increasingly likely that the government will step in to put some restrictions on Bitcoin, sooner rather than later.

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

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