By Jack Denton
The head of the European Central Bank called for the global regulation of bitcoin on Wednesday, saying that multilateral action was needed to stop “funny business” and money laundering.
Christine Lagarde, speaking at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday , said that bitcoin “has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”
“There has to be regulations, and this has to be applied and agreed upon. It is a matter that needs to be agreed at a global level, because if there is an escape, that escape will be used,” said the president of the ECB and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund. “It shows that global cooperation, multilateral action is absolutely needed.”
Lagarde’s comments come the same week as the U.K.’s financial regulator issued a blunt warning to investors in cryptocurrencies.
“Investing in cryptoassets, or investments and lending linked to them, generally involves taking very high risks with investors’ money,” the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday. “If consumers invest in these types of product, they should be prepared to lose all their money.”
According to cryptocurrency exchange CoinDesk, the market capitalization of bitcoin and other crypto assets topped $1 trillion last week. The price of bitcoin /zigman2/quotes/31322028/realtime BTCUSD +0.20% rallied close to 400% from the beginning of 2020 to its peak at more than $41,000 on Jan. 9.
Since Jan. 9, the price has dropped more than 15%, and now stands at around $34,500.
Lagarde said that she believes bitcoin is a speculative asset, not a currency, based on the rally over the past month and the subsequent price drop within the last few days.
“For those who had assumed that it might turn into a currency—terribly sorry, but this is an asset,” she said.