Weekend reading: In software dust we trust
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently received a letter from members of Congress responding to rumors of “burdensome” disclosure rules for cryptocurrency operators. Crypto execs (see above) and others weighed in with similar concerns. Brian Armstrong, the founder of the digital currency exchange Coinbase, retweeted these letters and compared the potential rules to the internet’s early days, when “there were people who called for it to be regulated like the phone companies. Thank goodness they didn’t.”
“Kings of Crypto,” a new book by Jeff John Roberts, a reporter at Fortune, documents the Coinbase chief’s quest to legitimize “outlaw currency.” Mr. Roberts spoke with DealBook about the future of crypto and whether it really is at risk from onerous regulation.
Bitcoin recently hit a new high. So is it all up from here?
We’ve seen this movie a few times. There’s a hangover and a correction, but each time won’t be as dramatic as the last one. Institutional money is coming in from hedge funds, and places like Harvard and Princeton. There’s some froth, but millennials seem to love it.
Does Bitcoin have any actual value?
Why is gold worth something? It’s a metal that conducts heat and makes pretty jewelry, but we think it’s valuable because we know everyone around the world thinks it’s valuable. There’s consensus. Bitcoin is reaching a tipping point: Governments, institutions, consumers and also criminals — criminals love Bitcoin! It’s just software dust, but as more people own it, the more its value is affirmed. The network has proved itself. Even if it’s not based on anything rational, it’s valuable.
So, what’s with the Treasury, and what should crypto supporters expect from the new administration?
It’s getting harder to ignore the underlying political question about what will be the world’s next reserve currency. By putting out a digital yuan, China put pressure on the U.S. The Treasury faces a dilemma. They can lose control and digital currency could become a threat to the dollar. You need regulation, but what type? U.S. regulators would be smart not to undermine innovators. President Trump thundered against crypto. Biden is not actively hostile to it. But with everything on their plate, it’s not going to be a priority for the next administration.
THE SPEED READ
Bankers and investors are preparing for the huge wave of corporate bond sales to end next year. (WSJ)
Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil giant, has hired Moelis & Company to advise on billions of dollars’ worth of asset sales. (Bloomberg)
It has been a really, really bad year for short sellers. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
Lawmakers rebuked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a hearing, questioning whether he politicized the management of billions in stimulus funds. (NYT)
President-elect Joe Biden is increasingly at odds with Democratic lawmakers over how much student debt the government should forgive. (NYT)
Disney unveiled a slew of new movies and shows — including multiple “Star Wars” and Marvel projects — to supercharge its Disney+ streaming service. (NYT)
Other studios are unlikely to follow WarnerMedia’s divisive plan to release movies simultaneously on streaming services and theaters. (CNBC)
Best of the rest
Big U.S. companies, led by Merck and IBM, pledged to hire one million Black workers over the next decade. (NYT)
“Is Exxon a Survivor?” (NYT)
Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs’s former president, refuses to return $10 million in pay to the firm over the 1MDB scandal, saying he plans to donate the money to charity instead. (Bloomberg)
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