“About $20 billion of long positions were liquidated last week,” Sam Bankman-Fried, the C.E.O. of the crypto derivatives exchange FTX, told DealBook. “In terms of price movements: the biggest part of it is liquidations,” he said, suggesting the worst is over. But he also noted news from China late Friday of a crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading. This added to other news of official scrutiny that has spooked crypto investors in recent days:
Financial regulators in Hong Kong announced support for a legislative proposal to create a licensing scheme for virtual asset exchanges and to ban trading for investors without a minimum of $1 million in their portfolios.
The Bank of Canada cited crypto concerns in its annual financial system review, saying that “the rapid evolution in cryptoasset markets is an emerging financial vulnerability.”
Gary Gensler, the chair of the S.E.C., said that American regulators “should be ready to bring cases” involving wrongdoing in crypto markets.
The Treasury Department noted in a report on tax proposals that “cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion.” The I.R.S. said it would require more extensive reporting of crypto transactions.
Companies with Bitcoin on their balance sheets may be getting nervous. For accounting purposes, crypto is valued at its purchase price. If it goes up in value, this isn’t reflected in a company’s accounts but if it falls, the value is impaired and puts a dent in quarterly profits. Let’s check in on the three big corporate Bitcoin holders — Tesla, MicroStrategy, and Square — shall we?
Tesla: The electric vehicle company bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin last quarter, at an average price of about $34,700 per coin, not far from its current price. Elon Musk has signaled that Tesla isn’t selling, but it probably isn’t buying, either.
MicroStrategy: The business intelligence software company has spent about $2.2 billion on Bitcoin, at an average price of $24,450. The company bought more last week and is still sitting on big gains.
Square: The payments company, led by the Twitter C.E.O. Jack Dorsey, bought two batches of Bitcoin for its treasury — $50 million in October at a price of about $10,600 and $170 million in February at a price of around $51,000. It took a $20 million impairment on its holdings last quarter, stemming from the drop in value from its most recent purchase. It doesn’t plan to buy any more, its C.F.O. said this month.
Today in Business
“Yeah, I do.”
— Barry Diller, when asked by Andrew on CNBC’s Squawk Box whether he thinks Disney’s C.E.O., Bob Chapek, has pushed his predecessor, Bob Iger, to the sidelines, as he suggested earlier in the interview. (And “not very nicely,” per Diller.)
Lazard enlists an admiral
The investment bank Lazard has hired William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who led the U.S. Special Operations Command, as a senior adviser for its financial advisory business. McRaven oversaw the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
His hiring underscores business’ concerns about geopolitics. The pandemic has highlighted the potential business risks of global interconnectedness and China’s increasing assertiveness, among the many fault lines that multinational companies face.
McRaven is the latest financial outsider to join Lazard. Memorably, the firm hired the late Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader with a gold-plated Rolodex, in 2000. “It’s not a place that is big on golfing,” said Peter Orszag, the head of financial advisory at Lazard, himself a veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations. Bringing such people on board brings both intellectual “content” and deep relationships around the world, Orszag said.