During Ethereum’s big rally last month, when the price of a single coin went from $220 to just shy of $400 in the span of two weeks, one trader turned $55 million of paper wealth into more than $398 million. And nobody knows who they are, or – more importantly – who to tax.
As Bloomberg so astutely observes, the growing number of wealthy crypto investors is starting to infuriate regulators, who are now calling for more transparency in the cryptocurrency market. Specifically, they’re arguing that it’s time for cryptocurrency wallets to include information that might help identify users. Otherwise – they say – the continued association with criminality – cemented by the Dread Pirate Roberts’s life sentence – could start to impact the crypto-asset market which now has an aggregate valuation approaching McDonald’s Corp.
Others, like the purported owner of Ethereum wallet 0x00A651D43B6e209F5Ada45A35F92EFC0De3A5184, which holds 680,000 ether tokens, worth about $150 million at present prices but nearly twice that when ether was trading at its mid-June highs, have a different definition of transparency. Someone alleging to be the accounts owner penned an Instagram post bragging about their gains in the middle of ether’s June rally.
“I get many private messages asking how much ether I have,” the post read, alongside photos that purported to be the hardware powering a mining operation but looked lifted from another website.
“One of the cool things about Ethereum is that all wallets around the world are transparent and open for everyone to see. And this is my wallet’s savings.”
That trader is probably not in such high spirits today, with Ethereum down 8% in recent trade:
While bitcoin’s popularity has been, in part, contingent on these privacy features, regulators see them as a threat that can aid tax cheats and criminals. Here’s Bloomberg, making the regulators’ case for them:
“That’s not to say that 0x00A651D43B6e209F5Ada45A35F92EFC0De3A5184 or any other entities are doing anything illegal. But opacity may be worsening jagged price movements. The value of ether, for example, rose from about $8 a unit at the start of the year to crest at $400 in June before settling around $250 today. A lack of transparency could also be stifling the mainstreaming of online money, according to draft legislation issued by the European Parliament in March.
“The credibility of virtual currencies will not rise if they are used for criminal purposes,” the draft said. “In this context, anonymity will become more a hindrance than an asset for virtual currencies” and their potential future popularity.”
It’s no wonder regulators are becoming more interested in identifying owners of crypto assets: Thanks to the explosive rallies in cryptocurrencies this year, the ranks of the crypto millionaires are growing.
“The current value of all the ether held, $23 billion, means dozens of electronic wallets have accrued nine-figure positions. Many of them could be held by individuals, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Individuals can hold multiple wallets.”
Furthermore, it’s likely that the first crypto billionaires have been minted by now: Candidates include hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz, Joseph Lubin, founder of ConsenSys, a blockchain production studio that works on Ethereum, and Ethereum creator [Vitalik] Buterin.
“Novogratz, a former executive at Fortress Investment Group and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a long way to go, but he’s been a consistent booster. He said last month that he has 10 percent of his net worth invested in virtual money. That’s a stake worth at least $90 million, given a net worth calculated at $925 million, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Novogratz declined to comment.
Cryptocurrencies could become a $5 trillion industry, but they need to develop sound business principles to satisfy regulators and lend legitimacy, Novogratz said June 27 at a fintech conference in New York. Lubin, the former chief operating officer for Ethereum Switzerland GmbH, which developed the software, could hold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of ether, several investors said. The Canadian entrepreneur didn’t respond to requests for comment on his holdings.
‘The long-range vision is moving the fundamental transactional elements of our society from analog, friction-filled systems to natively digital frictionless systems,’ Lubin told Bloomberg Radio June 21. Buterin said in a Reddit post last month his ether holdings equal what would amount to about $117 million today, according to calculations by Bloomberg.”
Regulators’ push to unmask holders of Bitcoin and Ethereum will likely succeed, but ironically, they could end up destroying – or at the very least damaging – the very assets they seek to tax: Outing users of one crypto asset will just boost demand for coins with enhanced privacy features like Monero and zcash.
What then? I guess the authorities will just need to start over.
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