Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair isn’t too worried about the mania surrounding cryptocurrencies, and sees no reason why Bitcoin and its brethren should be outlawed.
‘I don’t think we should ban it — the green bills in your pocket don’t have an intrinsic value, either. The value is based on what others think is its value. That’s true of any currency.’
That’s what she told Barron’s in a wide-ranging interview published Thursday. She does think digital currencies need more oversight, though.
“Regulation should be focused on good disclosure, education, warding off fraud, and making sure it is not used for illicit activities. Let the market figure out what it’s worth,” she said. “That is what it is doing now.”
Cryptocurrencies are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and around the world, after the value of digital currencies skyrocketed in 2017. Despite recent losses, Bitcoin has surged more than 800% over the past year. After peaking above $19,000 in December, the price of Bitcoin
has dropped 21% this year, and was last at $11,066.
Bair led the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures U.S. bank deposits, from 2006 until 20011, and previously served on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She also told Barron’s what she thinks could trigger the next financial crisis — and it’s not Bitcoin.
“I’d keep an eye on credit-card debt,” she said. “Subprime auto has been a problem for a couple years, and valuations on loans used to finance leveraged buyouts are high. Any type of secured lending backed by an asset that is overvalued should be a concern. That is what happened with housing. Corporate debt also has not gotten as much attention as it should. It is market-funded, rather than bank-funded, but the banks still have exposure. Then there’s cyber-risk. It took us so long to get around to the reforms postcrisis that we got a little behind on systemic cyber-risk, but regulators are very focused on it now.”