A Cryptocurrency Crisis? IMF’s Lagarde Keeps Eyes Peeled For Next Financial Disaster

Just days after calling cryptocurrency regulation “inevitable,” the IMF’s managing director questioned whether cryptocurrency could be the root of the next financial crisis.

  • In view of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) promotion of global economic stability, the organization is seemingly trying to predict the next financial disaster.

    “We need to anticipate where the next crisis will be,” asserted IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. “Will it be shadow banking?” she asked. “Will it be cryptocurrencies?”

    On Sunday, Lagarde spoke at a conference in Dubai on global business and social trends. In the wake of recent stock market volatility, she allayed fears.

    “I’m reasonably optimistic because of the landscape we have at the moment. But we cannot sit back and wait for growth to continue as normal,” she said.

    “I’m ringing not the alarm signal, but the strong encouragement and warning signal,” Lagarde added.

    On its face, the idea that cryptocurrency could spell disaster seems, well, absurd. After all, it’s “magic internet money.” However, it’s an idea that some regulators are treating seriously, hopefully a good omen ten years out from the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

    The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, for one, rejected the notion that cryptocurrency poses a systemic risk, at least at this stage. But at the US Senate Banking Committee’s hearing on virtual currency earlier this month, several legislators raised concerns about how cryptocurrencies might upend the traditional economy.

    It’s fair to wonder, in a cryptocurrency-oriented world, would tax evasion become a serious problem? Or more realistically, are cryptocurrency-based financial products a threat to the traditional, tangible economy? The volatility of bitcoin certainly leaves many scratching their heads.

    Instead of thinking about cryptocurrency on a global scale, it might be useful to consider the jurisdictional risks. How are individual regions or countries preparing themselves?

    Europe, in particular, is in desperate need of cryptocurrency regulation. Earlier today, the European Supervisory Authorities issued a joint warning about the potential dangers of cryptocurrency investment. The complete absence of legal protections makes the risks of fraud and theft ever greater. Potential links between cryptocurrency and European financial markets will require greater study.

    At least in the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have taken it upon themselves to monitor ICOs and market developments. Similarly, in Asia, Chinese and South Korean regulators have taken a keen interest in cryptocurrency oversight.

    Still, it’s clear that a global cryptocurrency regulatory strategy has been missing, which is part of why next month’s G20 conversations could be so important.

    Until then, we’re left with token questions and token answers.

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