Tempers flared during a cryptocurrency panel hosted at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference, in Beverly Hills, California with discussions degenerating to profanity as Nouriel Roubini, also known as ‘Dr. Doom,’ described bitcoin’s purported decentralization as “bullshit.” In addition to the comedy of Mr. Roubini, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman offered measured comments regarding the need to respect the “generational” nature of the booming interest surrounding the cryptocurrency markets.
‘Dr. Doom’ Curses Decentralization at Milken Conference
Among the most boisterous of the conference’s panelists was Nouriel Roubini – an economist known for predicting the 2008 financial crisis.
“All this talk of decentralization is just bullsh*t,” said Mr. Roubini, describing blockchain as comprising little more than a “glorified Excel spreadsheet.” Of investors who entered the bitcoin markets in late 2017, Mr. Roubini stated: “This was a bubble […] the ones who arrive late to the party are the suckers.”
Mr. Roubini’s remarks elicited retaliation from Alex Mashinsky, the chief executive of Celcius Network, who challenged Dr. Doom to “buy one coin and then tell us how it works.” Bill Barhydt, the chief executive of Abra, also chimed in, announcing that Roubini offering analysis of the cryptocurrency markets was akin to “a horse salesman saying we don’t need combustion engines.”
CFTC Chairman Describes “Generational” Shift Towards Bitcoin
Also speaking at the Milken Conference, the chairman of the CFTC, Christopher Giancarlo argued that regulators need to ”take a moment and respect this generation’s interest in this new instrument.” Mr. Giancarlo asserted that the cryptocurrency markets need to viewed “Not with derision, but with a little bit of attention and respect, and respond with policy initiatives that really are thoughtful and forward-looking.”
“There is something going on here that is generational,” he continued. “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.”
Mr. Giancarlo concluded by emphasizing the challenges encountered by the CFTC in seeking to apply its regulatory mandate – which was developed during the 1930’s – to the innovative phenomena of cryptocurrency. “We are struggling to find out how we apply an old law to really new and different applications,” Mr. Giancarlo stated.
“Every [ICO] I Have Seen Is A Security” – SEC Commissioner
Commissioner at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Michael Piwowar, offered a sweeping assessment of initial coin offerings (ICOs) at the conference, stating that so far every ICO examined by himself, or SEC chairman, Jay Clayton, has comprised “a security.
Mr. Piwowar discussed the current regulatory implications for ICOs, stating that “If (an ICO token) is a security, then it falls into three buckets. 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.”
Mr. Piwowar added that “Bitcoin itself is not a security, but these customized tokens for these initial coin offering – most of them are.”