Bitcoin, the digital currency that has often sparked both ferocious fandom and skeptical raised eyebrows, has been met with a chuckle and a shake of the head from “Shark Tank” magnate Kevin O’Leary. While the buzz around top Wall Street institutions taking a hearty bite of bitcoin investing has been growing louder, O’Leary insists that this particular investment pot isn’t simmering as many might think.
Despite asset management juggernauts like BlackRock and Fidelity inching forward, dipping toes into the waters with filings to formulate the inaugural bitcoin spot ETFs, O’Leary maintains a steadfast skepticism. The crux of his argument hinges on the encircling shadow of federal scrutiny that continues to loom over cryptocurrency.
He doesn’t mince words, declaring firmly to CoinDesk, “You know, people talk about, ‘there’s great institutional interest in bitcoin.’ No, there isn’t. They don’t own any of it, and they’re not going to own it while [SEC Chair Gary] Gensler’s suing everybody.”
And therein lies a considerable obstacle on the path of institutional bitcoin adoption: the vigorous pursuit of regulatory adherence by the SEC, which has unleashed a flurry of lawsuits against towering entities in the industry, all under the banner of trading tokens being tagged as unregulated securities.
With crypto giants like Coinbase and Binance thrust under the spotlight, and subsequently entangled in lawsuits for regulatory trespasses, the environment becomes notably thorny for firms such as BlackRock to navigate through. The practicality of tethering an ETF to an exchange currently wrestling with the regulator is, according to O’Leary, a non-starter.
As Binance appears to be retracting in its might and with its co-founder Changpeng Zhao enveloped in scrutiny, O’Leary poses a rhetorical question: “What institution wants to get involved in that?”
His observations surfaced parallel to the trial commencement of Sam Bankman-Fried, whose stewardship, or lack thereof, of the FTX exchange resulted in its collapse in the previous year.
O’Leary muses that the once romanticized era of “crypto cowboys” is gradually receding into the sunset, hinting that the anticipated industry expansion in the US may be stifled as regulatory hesitations deter investment.
However, the future is anything but static. With prospects of more transparent crypto exchanges possibly blossoming across international soil, institutional interest might find a new direction, albeit away from American shores.
Closing on a contemplative note, O’Leary remarks, “You want to see bitcoin appreciate in value, it has to be on a compliant exchange, regulated and approved by the regulator in his jurisdiction. Now is that going to be in the US? Doesn’t look like it.”
In the enigma that is the cryptocurrency landscape, investors, entrepreneurs, and spectators alike may find themselves pondering the blend of regulatory compliance, institutional interest, and the resultant trajectory of Bitcoin. Whether other sharks will swim alongside O’Leary or chart their own paths through these crypto waters remains a tantalizing mystery, underscoring the dynamic – and often turbulent – nature of investing in digital currencies.