kevin 'oleary, jeremy allaire
Kevin O’Leary and Jeremy Allaire went toe-to-toe on the viability of cryptocurrencies, with the Shark Tank star insisting that bitcoin is for drug dealers. | Source: (i) Shutterstock (ii) World Economic Forum/YouTube; Edited by CCN

If you though the Nouriel Roubini/Arthur Hayes debate was heated, you haven’t seen anything yet. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary and Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire faced off on bitcoin during a CNBC segment, and fortunately, it wasn’t an in-studio discussion or things could have turned ugly. O’Leary, who has earned the nickname Mr. Wonderful, came out swinging, arguing that cryptocurrencies are “non-compliant” with regulators and saying he wants to avoid getting “involved with a drug dealer trading a bitcoin somewhere.”

Allaire, whose blockchain startup Circle is behind the USD Coin stablecoin, defended the strides that cryptocurrencies have taken since the days of the Wild West, pointing to Circle’s licensed status both in the U.S. and the EU and drawing attention to the progress that international anti-money laundering standards have made. Kevin O’Leary wasn’t buying it, saying:

“If that’s true, why can’t I issue an ETF with a basket of crypto? Because a regulator says no way on earth.”  

Kevin O’Leary’s Wonder Coin

It’s not that O’Leary doesn’t get crypto. It’s just that he wants to be able to pay his taxes with it in any country from Switzerland to the U.S. before he’s willing to considering it legitimate. In fact, the Shark Tank star even pitched his own currency called the Wonder Coin, which would be governed by a consortium and comprised of fiat currencies such as the USD, JPY, EUR, and CHF. He wants to use the wonder coin to invest and pay his taxes. Sounds something like another new digital currency that is in the works.

Facebook’s Libra

Jeremy Allaire believes that Facebook has been the original impetus to get lawmakers and regulators to act on crypto. For years, policymakers were dragging their feet, but now that Facebook wants to launch a global digital currency, suddenly they’ve woken up. Allaire says:

“What’s very clear now is that cryptocurrency is here to stay. People have got to figure it out.”

Lawmakers have not taken kindly to Facebook’s Libra, and with good reason. A tech leader with known privacy shortcomings suddenly wants to get into the financial services business. Allaire’s advice to the politicians who are trying to rein in Libra is to “listen and learn” from the industry.

Jeremy Allaire threw a few punches of his own, saying that O’Leary’s “understanding of crypto [is] incredibly weak and limited.”

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