Cryptocurrency entered the mainstream economy in 2013 when Forbes listed Bitcoin as the best investment of that year, calling 2013 the “year of the bitcoin.” Then, in 2014, Bloomberg News made the statement that Bitcoin was one of the year’s worst investments. Since these early days, citizens and economists alike have remained skeptical of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Over the past few years, celebrities have gotten increasingly involved in “pushing cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens at a speed once reserved for viral dances,” according to the Washington Post. In the wake of recent events, the Securities and Exchange Commission is beginning to crack down on celebrity endorsement that has gone too far.
New investment vehicles and opportunities have flooded the financial services industry over the past few decades, but arguably none have grown in popularity at a rate comparable to cryptocurrency. A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency typically based on a decentralized network that utilizes blockchain technology. In other words, this decentralized feature allows a network of users to verify and record transactions without relying on any central authority, which permits the cryptocurrency to exist without government interference.
Cryptocurrency has an air of mystery about it. It seemingly burst onto the scene a decade ago, and while some of the stories about it may seem outlandish, many of them are true. The first known Bitcoin purchase was for two pizzas and prices can fluctuate wildly based off of tweets. With the origins of such a thing being the subject of internet humor and its value being so volatile, what level of attention and care is due to it?
Starbucks. What comes to mind? Expensive coffee in a nice atmosphere? Mermaids? A warm pumpkin spice latte? Perhaps. However, the words “billion-dollar bank” likely do not cross anyone’s mind. As wild as it seems, the huge coffee company actually has $1.5 billion in assets, an amount larger than eighty-five percent of the banks in the United States. Not only is Starbucks flush with cash, but, unlike actual banks, it can use this money to invest in other ventures, invest in the marketplace, or expand its business. This begs the question, is Starbucks merely a coffee company or will it join the ranks of Bank of America and Citibank?
Cryptocurrencies have often been associated with illegal activities due to the fact that they allow users to remain relatively anonymous. This anonymity is possible because, when transacting with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, you can see where funds are being sent but not who sent or received them. However, there are signs that the use of crypto for unlawful purposes may be falling with illicit activity accounting for just 0.34% of all crypto transactions last year – down from roughly 2% a year earlier. Despite this improvement, cryptocurrency regulation appears to remain a top priority for federal lawmakers. One such example of this is the proposal of an anti-money laundering rule which would require people who hold their cryptocurrency in a private digital wallet to undergo identity checks if they make transactions of $3,000 or more. But Congress does not appear to be stopping there. As cryptocurrencies surged in value in recent days, lawmakers jumped to introduce two new bills aimed at advancing regulation of these precarious digital assets.
GameStop started 2021 with a stock price below $20 but saw its stock price skyrocket to well above $300 a share towards the end of January. The rally would be hard to explain by solely relying on the company’s financial reports or underlying fundamentals. Instead, the rally has to be explained through a combination of external factors involving a popular fintech company’s app, manic speculation by retail investors, and Reddit. Although at first glance this may seem like a new phenomenon, the same factors have been at play for years with a huge interest in Tesla and Bitcoin – and they pose a risk to the markets that regulators and Wall Street together can’t ignore.