Bank of England chief calls for cryptocurrency regulation

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Carney calls for crypto-currency regulation

Mark Carney said authorities were right to be concerned about bitcoin.

Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney believes cryptocurrencies should be regulated to combat illegal activities, promote market integrity, and protect the financial system. However, it has sold off significantly in 2018 and now sits at around half its value at December previous year.

The chief executive of the UK's Financial Conduct Authority, Andrew Bailey, warned in December that people who invest in Bitcoin needed to be prepared to lose all their money given its extreme volatility and questionable fundamental value.

"Indeed, the average volatility of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization was more than 25 times that of the US equities market in 2017", Carney said.

Charlie Clarence-Smith, a specialist in digital currencies and their regulation at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that he agreed with Carney's assessment.

"The NCA [National Crime Agency] has assessed the risk of digital currency use for money laundering to be relatively low; although NCA deems it likely that digital currencies are being used to launder low amounts at high volume, there is little evidence of them being used to launder large amounts of money". "The time has come to hold the crypto-asset ecosystem to the same standards as the rest of the financial system".

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"The most fundamental reason to be sceptical about the longer term value of cryptocurrencies is that it is not clear the extent to which they will ever become effective media of exchange". The SEC, concerned that so-called initial coin offerings are fraught with fraud, has taken a hard line on cryptocurrency providers.

Earlier this week it emerged that the US Securities and Exchange Commission has sent out a flurry of subpoenas to cryptocurrency companies asking for information.

Holding crypto-asset exchanges to the same standards as those that trade securities would, Carney said, address a "major underlap" in the regulatory approach.

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee is now considering the risks posed to United Kingdom financial stability by the proliferation of virtual currencies. "But that is not meant to dismiss them".

The inquiry will examine the potential impact of the technology on financial institutions and infrastructure, and how regulation can provide protection for consumers and businesses without "stifling innovation".

Already the bank's financial policy committee is carrying out a study risks digital currencies pose to the stability of the United Kingdom financial system.


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