Exclusive: Gerard Dache, on the Two Contradictions of Facebook Libra
Exclusive interview with Gerard Dache: Part 2
In part 2 of the interview, Gerard walked us through some of the recommended bills to the government in fostering blockchain innovation, such as the “Blockchain Promotion Act”. He then shared his views on the nature of Bitcoin and two contradictions of Facebook’s Libra.
In Section 2 “Working group to recommend the definition of blockchain technology” of the Blockchain Promotion Act, as some academics have defined “blockchain technology” in their papers, is this bill trying to show that the working groups are more authoritative than the academic scholars? If the definition set is different from those in academics, will those academic papers and whitepapers lose their authority?
A great question! Firstly, we have 50 different working groups, and I am not involved in all of the output of all of them. We tend to think in terms of continuing to bring clarity, we are not in competition with the politicians or the academics and we are not a political organization. We want to bring the government and businesses together.
In my opinion, we are going to need a whole new asset class. These technologies are fundamentally different than securities or utilities or a lot of these things we seem to patent, they may have attributes of them.
We have never seen a technology like this before. We are going to need new regulatory tools to deal with it.
What’s your observation on the role of cryptocurrencies in the financial industry?
When cryptocurrencies first came out, the biggest enemy of cryptos was the financial services industry. Everybody in blockchain started moving to all these different use cases, such as supply chain, identity, healthcare, and others; blockchain will be helpful but it will be a slow path. In the area of financial services, there was the most animosity towards cryptocurrencies. The pace of blockchain development will be the quickest because the banks and financial institutions realize if they don’t leverage blockchain in their operations, they’re going to be left behind and will be out of existence.
The minute that banks start moving into this space, they will then drag the government. All the Facebook hearings, Libra hearings and other things are happening because the financial services industry is moving much faster than any other industry, and we see incremental innovations there. In the area of banking and financial services, that’s where the earthquakes will rock the foundations of our finances. That’s also where the laws must go first.
The US SEC claimed Bitcoin is not a security; the IRS said Bitcoin is considered property; the CFTC said Bitcoin is a commodity. How does the GBA or your personal view the nature of Bitcoin? Should Bitcoin be regulated?
There is no government agency that can come in and make an impact on Bitcoin. There isn’t any way for a government to regulate or to change the supply or to change the price of cryptocurrencies. The government can require its citizens to report it, but it is literally impossible for them to be regulated.
In your opinion, do you think Bitcoin is a security, commodity, property, or none of the above?
I believe it's none of the above – Bitcoin has the property of the above mentioned and it bears similar characteristics as gold. However, for high dollar transactions, it can also be a payment system. GBA is not a lobbyist organization, so we’re not trying to push for legislation. In my opinion, we need a new asset class and new rules.
Let’s talk a bit about the future of Facebook’s Libra. David Marcus mentioned in the hearing that Facebook Libra is a payment instrument. What are the regulations required for Libra to stay compliant?
Facebook was hit with two completely conflicting issues; they said the reason that they are building this is that they want to help bank the unbanked. They also said at the same time that they will be fully AML and KYC compliant. The reason why so many people are unbanked is that they don’t have an identity. How are you going to give identity, do AML/KYC and at the same time bank the unbanked?
Facebook is going to run into so many regulatory challenges that I doubt they will ever launch, and if they do, it’s not going to be anytime soon.
Do you think Libra is not a cryptocurrency because of its centralized nature?
Yes. Facebook hasn’t figured out a lot of this stuff themselves yet, so the fact that they announced when they did, caused a lot of chaos but also woke up a lot of people. They are not ready for their prime time yet. In fact, many members of the association have many questions about what it would mean when trying to run a node and when they would be compliant, and the current regulators are not ready for this.
Recently, Walmart filed a patent on digital currency. What will be the future of Bitcoin when traditional giants start launching their own digital currency like Facebook?
For Facebook’s Libra and Walmart, when they launch their own token, I believe they will become another ‘Western Union': another centralized payment channel.
I don’t think that they can actually take on the properties of a cryptocurrency. The concept of cryptocurrencies, as a decentralized mechanism, is so antithetical to what they’re trying to do.
My prediction is that I see Bitcoin going up to about half a million dollars. The reason is that if I go to Starbucks, or McDonald’s, I don’t need 51% of all the computers in the world to validate my transaction. However, if I’m going to buy a house or a car, or if the government is going to send a transfer payment to a state, a currency as secure as Bitcoin will be needed. I believe that we’ll see networks and technologies that are much lighter, much faster like the lightning network that will be secure enough for smaller transactions. Bitcoin will become more like the cornerstone gold, and more like the reserve currency that all of these technologies are tethered to.
I believe Bitcoin has something that very few other cryptocurrencies have – which is a fully decentralized nature gaining people’s trust. I think that’s where the value is, not in the everyday payment system, but as the foundation for a whole new economy.
Do you think the future of blockchain development will be driven by permissioned blockchains instead of public blockchains?
When the internet first came out, it was hard to imagine that we would be using the internet for our banking. Then we would use the internet to swipe right or left to decide who to date. We need transitional technologies and I believe that these enterprise permissioned blockchains are very important transitional technologies. If you try to tell someone we’re going to go from where we were ten years ago, to a fully decentralized economy, people will say you’re crazy. It is going to take time for that to happen. It may take decades, but these enterprise permissioned systems, I believe, are critical to the transition to the new economy.