581.01 FinTech Law and Policy

In 2016, few people had ever heard of Bitcoin or blockchain, initial coin offerings were non-existent, and U.S. financial regulatory agencies had yet to react to the emergence of non-bank financial services providers. The FinTech industry has changed dramatically since then: Bitcoin has captured the public imagination and spawned new derivatives products, central banks are considering launching their own digital currency, you can apply for a mortgage on your smartphone, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency proposed a new kind of bank charter specifically for FinTech firms. While many have focused on the technologies underpinning the FinTech revolution, less attention has been placed on how these technologies fit within the current financial regulatory framework. Understanding this framework is critical to the long-term success of any FinTech startup. While technology startups in other sectors may predicate their business on breaking rules and ignoring regulations, such a strategy is sure to fail if deployed by a FinTech firm. This is because the financial industry is heavily regulated by multiple state and federal agencies that often have overlapping authority. Being a successful FinTech firm requires more than just great technology; it also requires an understanding of the laws and regulations applicable to your business.

This course aims to provide you with that understanding. You will learn about the critical legal, regulatory, and policy issues associated with cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, online lending, new payments and wealth management technologies, and financial account aggregators. In addition, you will learn how regulatory agencies in the U.S. are continually adjusting to the emergence of new financial technologies and how one specific agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, proposed a path for FinTech firms to become regulated banks. The course will also address the role FinTech has played during the pandemic; from FinTech lenders administering small business loans, to a Congressional proposal to administer stimulus payments through Federal Reserve digital wallets.  You will also learn the basics of how banks are regulated in the U.S.

If you are unfamiliar with how these new financial technologies work, fear not. We will begin each new course section with a high-level overview of the underlying technology.

Due to the pandemic, course content will be delivered online, but in person office hours will be held for those interested. Class participation will remain a required and graded component of the course. To help facilitate class participation, each student will be required to deliver a company profile presentation during the semester. In addition, each student, as part of a team, will deliver a presentation related to an assigned case study. Class participation will account for 40% of your grade and a final paper will make up the remaining 60%.

Enrollment Pre-/Co- Requisite Information

Prior or current registration in a financial regulatory course (e.g., Big Bank Regulation; Securities Regulation). Please discuss with instructors if you think your prior course might be eligible

Fall 2020

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Research paper, 25+ pages
Oral presentation
Class participation
Lee Reiners
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.581.01.F20
Email list: LAW.581.01.F20@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Areas of Practice