581.01 FinTech Law and Policy

Updated: November 12, 2021

The Internet, the increased power of computing and new technology are driving the decentralization of all aspects of the global economy, including financial services. Today, we can surf the Internet, download apps, listen to music, shop, send money to friends and family, manage our financial accounts, and buy bitcoin – all from our smartphones.

For decades, banks had been one-stop shops for financial services. Financial technology firms (fintechs), leveraging the sharing of personal customer bank account data, have quickly emerged to unbundle aspects of financial services and rebundle them on platforms. The pace of platformization has picked up since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, yet financial laws and regulations have not kept pace. Data protection laws were passed in the 1970s long before the advent of fintech services and products, and customer liability protections do not fully extend to nonbank-provided mobile payment transactions.

Meanwhile, money is making a leap in evolution. From commodity-based currencies to fiat-based currencies that support commercial bank money and mobile payments, we now see an emergence in cryptocurrencies beginning with Bitcoin launched in 2009. Questions about whether central banks should issue their own form of digital currency became more pressing when Facebook announced its plans in 2020 to issue a digital currency: Libra. Now central banks around the world are exploring issuing central bank digital currencies or CBDCs. These developments raise important questions of how best to design CBDCs and what kinds of personal data can be collected on users transacting in CBDCs.

New technologies such as blockchain are driving further innovation in financial services. After the advent of native cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum with high price volatility, stablecoins were developed with the goal of being more “stable”. However, it is uncertain under US laws or regulations if these digital assets are commodities, securities, or currency. These blockchain technologies are driving decentralization of financial services, and perhaps the largest legal and policy question of all is how should decentralized finance, or DeFi, fits in our current framework of laws and regulations.

This course aims to provide you with an understanding of legal and policy issues raised by tech-driven financial innovation. You will learn about the critical legal, regulatory, and policy issues associated with cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, online lending, new payments 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.

This course will be delivered online.  Students will be assessed on class participation and a 25-30 page research paper. This paper may not be used to satisfy the JD SRWP requirement without permission.  The paper will satisfy the LLM writing requirement.

Special Notes:

*2 credits*
*synchronous online*

Enrollment Pre-/Co- Requisite Information

Prior or current registration in a financial regulatory course (e.g., Big Bank Regulation; Securities Regulation) or permission of the instructors.

Spring 2022

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Research paper, 25+ pages
Class participation
Linda Jeng, Greg Xethalis
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW-581-01-Sp22
Email list: LAW-581-01-Sp22@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - JD-LLM-LE
Course Areas of Practice