A recent panel discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills became heated when panelists aired their conflicting views on the future of cryptocurrency.
Every seat in the conference auditorium was filled for the discussion which included United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman Christopher Giancarlo, economist Nouriel Roubini, and Commissioner at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Michael Piwowar.
SEC’s commissioner Piwowar, issued an early warning, making reference to the current argument surrounding ICOs, which has occupied much debate recently, suggesting that if an ICO token is a security it falls into one of three categories:
“The first is the registered public offerings; this is the normal IPO, public offer. We’ve not had anybody register a public offering for an ICO. The next bucket is exempt offerings, so if you have an ICO, you have to fit into one of those types of exempted. And the third bucket is illegal […] if you are not falling into the first two buckets, we’ve said we’re coming after you.”
Piwowar added, “Bitcoin itself is not a security, but these customized tokens for these initial coin offering – most of them are.”
Christopher Giancarlo was upbeat, suggesting that there should be more respect for the generation’s “new instrument”, referring to cryptocurrencies, and said that rather than derision, markets needed policy initiatives that were “thoughtful and forward-looking”. He continued:
“There is something going on here that is generational… Just as the baby boomer generation lost faith in the leaders that came before them and tried to seek a cultural change in those days through sex, drugs and rock and roll, I think there is a generation that also has lost faith in us that led them through the financial crisis and they see technology as a way of disintermediating institutions for which they don’t have a great deal of respect.”
He went on to explain the CFTC’s problems of applying outmoded regulations to completely new technology.
Nouriel Roubini, tagged as ‘Dr Doom’, an economist known for predicting the 2008 financial crisis, caused friction when describing blockchain as “a glorified Excel spreadsheet” and described investors entering the Bitcoin market “bubble” in 2017 as “suckers.”
His description of decentralization as “bullsh*t“ provoked blockchain entrepreneur Alex Macshinsky to respond, “Everything you just said is irrelevant.”
Ex-CIA cryptographer Bill Barhydt, clearly bemused by Roubini’s comments, retorted with “I don’t even know where to begin”.