The unfolding FTX debacle and the domino effect it is having on the entire crypto industry is reigniting fiery debates between crypto naysayers and true believers, and everyone seems to have an opinion, including Mark Cuban and Charlie Munger.
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Hashtags such as #cryptoisdead have been trending, and a slew of headlines have been announcing the collapse/demise/fall of the industry as if it were the Roman empire.
On the other hand, believers will believe, and several experts say this episode is the chance for the industry to go through a rebirth of sorts and come out stronger, rise from the ashes and prove everybody wrong.
Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, said he remains bullish on crypto despite the collapse of FTX and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.
“That’s somebody running a company that’s just dumb … and greedy,” Cuban told Sports Business Journal. “There’s a ton of algorithmic trading in crypto, because there’s a lot of inefficiencies and there’s no best price anywhere. So when somebody gets greedy and there’s a run, there’s not like there’s a Fed window where you can just go get cash as if you’re a bank.”
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Cuban argued on Twitter that “these blowups have not been crypto blowups, they have been banking blowups.”
“Lending to the wrong entity, misvaluations of collateral, arrogant arbs, followed by depositor runs,” he tweeted. “See Long Term Capital, Savings & Loan and Sub-Prime blowups. All different versions of the same story.”
In turn, he said he is still bullish on the space and has invested in crypto, because he believes in smart contracts. “The value of a token is derived from the applications that run on its platform and the utility they create,” he tweeted Nov. 13.
Lex Sokolin, head economist at ConsenSys, echoed the sentiment, saying that in regards to FTX it is important to highlight the difference between a financial crisis brought on by poor behavior and risk management from brokerages and hedge funds, and the technological and economic progress coming from blockchain protocols and onchain decentralized finance.
“The financial crisis we see now is the same type of human failure of breaching trust and fiduciary duty that has always plagued broker dealers, exchanges and custodial institutions, from LTCM to Lehman Brothers,” Sokolin said. “It can apply to any financial market and happened in crypto assets due to opportunism and immaturity of the financial players.
“The time is now to move from outsourcing trust to institutions and organizations that have failed time and time again to a future where blockchains automate trust, where trust is inbuilt in code itself and can stand up to scrutiny and transparency in real time.”
Michael Saylor, co-founder of MicroStrategy and one of the OG’s of Bitcoin support, seems to believe that the FTX fiasco, which he deemed “an expensive ad for Bitcoin,” cements his argument for its domination of Bitcoin as the sole true digital asset.
“Sam created a million #Bitcoin Maximalists,” he tweeted Nov. 19
“If you want to compare Bitcoin to something else, compare it to fire, the number zero, the wheel, the printing press, or electricity,” he tweeted Nov. 21.
Yet, Saylor argues that there is a strong need for regulation in the space and that the only viable future is registered digital assets trading on regulated digital exchanges.
Other Bitcoin maximalists, including Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, agree with the premise that the sector will not be affected by FTX’s collapse, in spite of the short-term disruptions it is currently causing across the sector.
“This entire episode is an instance of the market correcting itself,” Pierce said. “Through this process, the sector is effectively safeguarding itself against high-risk, unstable practices and companies that engage in this behavior. Bitcoin will remain a valuable asset in the future since it still provides a number of major benefits to society — namely, being built on a transparent, secure blockchain, driving financial inclusion by democratizing and decentralizing finance and financial transactions, and acting as an alternative to continuously inflated traditional fiat currencies.”
Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao announced that he was forming an industry recovery fund to help projects that are otherwise strong but in a liquidity crisis, to reduce “further cascading negative effects of FTX.”
“Crypto is not going away,” he tweeted Nov. 14. “We are still here. Let’s rebuild.”
The sentiment is echoed by many in the industry who argue that this “episode” will enable the space to go through a renewal and — providing more regulatory guardrails are put in place — will thrive.
“For everyone working in the Web3 community, we’re facing a tough moment” Web3 artist and curator Trippy said. “I do believe it is temporary, but also a necessary weeding-out process to rid the industry of these bad players.
“Although some people’s faith has been affected by what happened at FTX, the overall problem is a result of centralized players not adhering to the decentralized ethos of this space.”
No surprise here: Just a few days after FTX’s debacle, Charlie Munger — Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman, billionaire investor and Warren Buffett’s right-hand man — jumped on the crypto-bashing bandwagon. Munger, who once famously compared cryptos to a “venereal disease,” reiterated his dislike for digital assets, telling CNBC, “The country did not need a currency that was good for kidnappers.”
“It pains me that in my own country I see people that were once regarded as very reputable people helping this thing exist, promoting [its] use and so forth,” he told CNBC. “This is a very bad thing.”
“Concealed, Corrupt, Criminals, Crooks, Con Men, Carnival-barkers, Cult, Crappy,” is how Nouriel Roubini — aka Dr. Doom — describes the crypto world.
“@cz_binance = melting down pyramid scheme = collapsing Ponzi scheme = Mother Of All Bank Runs = collapsing House of Cards,” he tweeted.
Roubini, an economist and NYU professor, argues that cryptos have no intrinsic value and that even Proof of Reserves (PoR) are “a gimmick used by crypto exchanges/lending platforms to pretend that their customers funds are safe.”
In the same vein, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari argues that FTX isn’t a case of one fraudulent company in a serious industry. He tweeted on Nov. 18 that the “entire notion of crypto is nonsense.”
In that same tweet, Kashkari criticized crypto enthusiasts’ most salient arguments, saying that cryptos are not useful for payments, don’t provide an inflation hedge and don’t have scarcity.
“No taxing authority,” he added. “Just a tool of speculation and greater fools.”
The Middle Ground
Some in the industry have a more nuanced view, saying that while they remain bullish on the space there is also a bearish case to be made: the lack of regulatory clarity.
“For a long time, many in the digital asset industry have asked regulators in the United States and beyond for a healthy framework that can ensure that users are protected without damaging innovation,” said Daryl Kelly, the founder of LTD.INC. “This is a tough balancing act, and this balancing act will likely get tougher until there is more clarity on how this industry will be regulated in the coming years.
“I’m hopeful that our industry can engage productively with lawmakers and regulators to craft a set of rules and guidelines that will ultimately restore confidence in digital assets and, in turn, spur continued and healthy growth for our industry. This will take time, but, again, I’m bullish on being optimistic. There are many bright spots in our industry, after all.”
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