WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee is likely to take a closer look at bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

“We are about to be overwhelmed by bitcoin, other kinds of cryptocurrencies,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., during a banking panel hearing Tuesday. “I would hope … that we would be able to get ahead of it rather than chasing it after the fact.”

Speaking afterward, panel Chairman Mike Crapo agreed that a hearing on cryptocurrencies is in order.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
“I would hope … that we would be able to get ahead of it rather than chasing it after the fact,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Bloomberg News

Warner, who is also vice chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, asked witnesses testifying on Tuesday how the financial system is preparing for the expansion of cryptocurrencies.

Heather Lowe, legal counsel and director of government affairs at Global Financial Integrity, a think tank focused on preventing illicit finance, said one of the challenges is that “there have been moves to make the crypto or technology more anonymous.”

She made a distinction between the cryptocurrencies and the technology that they run on.

“The underlying technology has positive uses,” said Lowe, who noted that the Financial Action Task Force, an international organization aimed at preventing money laundering, is exploring cryptocurrency oversight.

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued guidance on cryptocurrencies in 2013. Last July, it fined the cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e (also known as Canton Business Corporation) $110 million for not requiring enough customer information and for embracing “pervasive criminal activity conducted at the exchange.”

The interest in bitcoin remains high. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon acknowledged Tuesday that he'd been too hard on cryptocurrency and bitcoin, saying that some of the underlying technology is potentially valuable.