When I ask people what do they think of Bitcoin? The response often equates to, ‘isn’t that the thing that people use for crime on the internet?’
However, if I were to ask my friends, what do you think about banks? They will often complain of expensive fees or greedy bankers, being paid too much money. Rarely, will they even mention the vast sums banks have been fined for money laundering and criminal activity.
Dan Held tweeted this a couple of weeks ago:
Since 2008, banks have been fined a total of $243 billion for money laundering. He points out that the total crypto market cap is $138 billion, which compared to the fines, pales in comparison. In a follow-up tweet Held points out several of the big banks, who have received fined.
Of the banks Held mentions, most, won’t let their customers buy cryptocurrencies. The reason given by them is often, lack of AML checks (anti-money laundering) and lack of regulation. The hypocrisy is self-evident.
In a 2018 Forbes article, they published a list of major banks who don’t allow their customers to by Bitcoin. These are the same banks who have been fined for breaking AML regulations. They list, Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan as the banks which used to allow crypto purchases but no longer do. All these banks have been fined, with Bank of America receiving the largest number of fines totalling $58 billion!
Warren Buffett famously called Bitcoin a ‘delusion’ and stated that it ‘attracts Charlatans’. As a major investor in Wells Fargo, perhaps Buffett should look at his own companies first, as Wells Fargo have received over $14 billion in fines.
Not only are the banks constantly breaking AML regulations but a few of them have been raided because of alleged criminal activity. In November 2018, Deutsche Bank was investigated by German police in relation to $200 billion in laundered money related to the Panama Papers scandal. In addition, Toshi Times recently reported on a Russian Bank which had laundered $9 billion.
Yet given all this evidence relating to how the modern financial system works, regulators are continuing to heavily scrutinise cryptocurrencies and treat them with caution.
How Do they Keep Getting Away with It?
As pointed out by Dan Held, the market cap for cryptocurrencies is small in comparison to the fines handed out to the big banks. The legacy financial system profits from criminal activity and that’s why the fines don’t provide any dis-incentive.
Large financial institutions and rich individuals who are invested in the current banking system, will continue their efforts to undermine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Perhaps, the fact that Bitcoin’s transactions are publicly available and thus, would make their money laundering almost impossible, means that they will continue to criticise and deride cryptocurrencies. Perhaps as Dan Held said, ‘it is time for plan ₿’.