Friday, 03 Feb 2023

ECB says bitcoin is on road to irrelevance amid crypto collapse

ECB says bitcoin is on road to irrelevance amid crypto collapse

ECB says bitcoin is on road to irrelevance amid crypto collapse

The European Central Bank says bitcoin is on an "artificially induced last gasp before the road to irrelevance", in a scathing intervention arguing against giving regulatory legitimacy to the cryptocurrency.

The value of the digital currency has plummeted from a peak of almost $70,000 to a low of $16,000 since the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX, before stabilising at about $20,000. But the ECB authors say even this stabilisation is likely to be false, an artefact of market manipulation rather than genuine demand.

"Big bitcoin investors have the strongest incentives to keep the euphoria going," they wrote. "The manipulations by individual exchanges or stablecoin providers etc. during the first waves are well documented, but less so the stabilising factors after the supposed bursting of the bubble in spring."

In the article, which was first published as an opinion piece in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Bindseil and Schaaf argue that the speculative bubble in bitcoin value led to an explosion in lobbying from the cryptocurrency sector that aimed to treat crypto as "just another asset class". In fact, they write, "the risks of crypto assets are undisputed among regulators".

"Since bitcoin appears to be neither suitable as a payment system nor as a form of investment, it should be treated as neither in regulatory terms and thus should not be legitimised," the blogpost concludes.

The intervention sparked immediate pushback from those inside the bitcoin community. Investor Eric Voorhees said that the line declaring the currency "artificially inflated" would be "set in a beautiful typeface, ornately displayed on heavy matte paper, and hung elegantly upon my wall", while venture capitalist Mike Dudas contrasted the post with a chart showing the euro's 20% decline against the dollar since 2021, arguing that it was the euro that was on the road to "irrelevance". (In the same period, bitcoin has fallen against the euro by more than 60%).

It is one of the strongest interventions yet against bitcoin, and by extension the wider cryptocurrency sector, by a leading regulator. After FTX's spectacular failure, authorities around the world have questioned whether light-touch regulation of the cryptocurrency sector could be causing real harm to consumers. Inside the EU, the Markets in Crypto-Assets regulation (MiCA) is one attempt to impose stricter requirements on the sector. The rules, which are likely to be voted into law in February, will impose new consumer protection requirements on EU-based crypto companies.

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