Union reps call it an "overreaction" and are preparing for the worst. Scandinavian lender Nordea is drawing the line against bitcoin internally, throwing down the gauntlet on any activity that's "unethical" or worse, "criminal." Bank officials are citing a lack of regulation, likening bitcoin to gambling but favoring the latter for its regulation. But critics are crying foul, standing firm on the reality that bitcoin isn't illegal. The memo reportedly was communicated to Nordea's workforce on Jan. 22.
Nordea employees, all 31,000 of them, are prohibited from investing in bitcoin or any altcoins as of Feb. 28, but the new rule is being grandfathered in -- those employees who owned cryptocurrencies prior to the effective date won't be required to liquidate their holdings, according to reports. That's little solace to trade unions Finansforbundet and Djøf under which most bank employees are organized and which are fighting back.
"It is clear that employees should not speculate on something that is criminal. But that's not the case for bitcoin, as it seems at this time. We think that a ban is being made without a legal basis," according to Djøf chief conultant Niels Mosegaard cited in reports.
If any party is leaning on the side of breaking the law, the unions seem to suggest it's the lender, Nordea. Kent Peterson, Finance Federation chairman, called the ban"overreaction" if what's driving the ban are concerns that employees investing in cryptocurrencies run the risk of a crime. While the leading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple may not trade on traditional stock exchanges, they're not illegal to trade in Denmark, and union reps are exploring their rights.
Finansforbundet and Djøf are inclined to pursue legal action should an employee of Nordea challenge the ban and be fired.
Meanwhile, Nordea's decision to take matters into its own hands is unusual among European banks, but it could incentivize regulators such as the European Banking Federation to craft a sweeping policy, reports suggest. Thus far, the tone from Nordic central banks on bitcoin has been ominous, with policymakers warning that cryptocurrencies are riddled with danger and speculation as regulators try and protect investors against the bout of volatility that's unfolded in the top cryptocurrencies of late.
Taking a Page Out of JPMorgan's Book?
Nordea isn't the first bank to warn its employees to stay away from bitcoin. In one of JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon's rants against bitcoin, reportedly threatened to fire any employee who was trading bitcoin. He's since softened its position on cryptocurrencies, which suggests there may be hope for Nordea yet.
Nordea plans to relocate its headquarters from Sweden to Finland in H 2018.
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