Bitcoin brawl breaks out at crypto panel

Bitcoin brawl breaks out at crypto panel

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Bitcoin is like that. It has a habit of bringing out the best and the worst of passions and not always enough focus on the facts.

Bringing bitcoin to a barroom gunfight


Milken Institute conferenceCase in point, a cryptocurrency panel called “Cryptocurrencies: Irrational Exuberance or Brave New World?” at the recent Milken Institute Global Conference.

Squaring off on the future of digital currencies was a panel of experts including moderator Anna Irrera, FinTech Correspondent with Thomson Reuters; Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra, a cryptocurrency wallet; Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Celsius Network, a cryptocurrency borrowing and lending platform; Brent McIntosh, General Counsel, US Treasury Department; and Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics, Stern School of Business at New York University, also known as “Dr. doom” for his predictions on the 2008 financial collapse.

The 8:45 am presenters clearly had too much caffeine because things quickly devolved into shouting, crosstalk and insults according to a Bloomberg report.

Roubini: Bitcoin is BS


Nouriel Roubini says Bitcoin is bullshit

Nouriel Roubini, aka “Dr Doom”

Digital coin skeptic Dr Doom (Roubini) led off with his now well-known criticisms of cryptocurrencies: they’re not really a store of value coins like bitcoin and Ethereum are not able to handle payments volume as efficiently as current systems like Visa. “All this talk of decentralization is just bullshit,” said Roubini.

According to the New York Post, Roubini called the blockchain a “glorified Excel spreadsheet,” noting that cryptocurrency holders need to use centralized exchanges to complete transactions.

Alex Mashinsky

Alex Mashinsky

Mashinsky talked about how cryptocurrency borrowing and lending platforms like his own Celsius Network enable consumers to bypass banks.

“You’re just making stuff up,” Roubini snapped.

Mashinsky questioned how much Roubini really knew about cryptocurrency suggesting to the professor “Why don’t you buy one coin, then you can tell us how it works.”

Bill Barhydt, CEO Abra

Bill Barhydt

“I don’t even know where to begin,” said Barhydt, who worked on cryptography for the CIA earlier in his career before starting cryptocurrency wallet Abra. “It’s like a horse salesman saying we don’t need combustion engines.”

Timeout cooling off period called


Panel moderator Irrera called for a timeout by participants as discussions descended into crosstalk, providing little sober debate or facts for the full house audience.

US Treasury Counsel McIntosh got in the best quip of the conference when he said, “I may need to step in and regulate this panel.”

Brent McIntosh, General Counsel, US treasury

Brent McIntosh

“Crypto is not a synonym for immune from the rule of law. We don’t want it to be a safe haven for bad things. We don’t think that mom and pop who invest in it should be ripped off,” McIntosh told The New York Post in an interview after the panel.

Insults aside, the emotions highlighted the ongoing debate about the value of cryptocurrencies, their impact on investors, consumers and existing institutions, as well as their security and utility in the financial field.

Any time this level of passions inflames a debate, you know things are serious, and that’s not a bad thing for cryptocurrency as it evolves.

Photo credits: Nouriel Roubini via Daily Express; Alex Mashinsky and Bill Barhydt via Twitter; Brent McIntosh via US treasury;