Bitcoin Catches Attention Of Goldman Sachs (And Walmart, And Cisco): Goldman Director Joins Bitcoin Startup

Tyler Durden's picture


When Bitcoin fans were hoping for fast track adoption by the mainstream, catching the attention of the all-seeing eye of Sauron Goldman Sachs was probably low on their list of action items. Yet that is precisely what they got with the arrival of a Goldman Sachs board member M. Michele Burns, who recently joined the board of Boston-based Bitcoin payment processing system startup Circle Internet Financial.

As Fortune reports "Circle launched earlier this year, and was founded by Jeremy Allaire, who has led other Internet start-ups, but recently has become a Bitcoin evangelist. The company got $9 million in funding from a number of venture capitalist firms. Jim Breyer, a partner at Accel and an early backer of Facebook (FB), is also on Circle's board, as is Raj Date, who recently left a top post at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Circle declined to comment about Burns. Two sources with knowledge of her move confirmed it."

Perhaps of same or greater importance is that in addition to being the chair of the audit committee at the preeminent FDIC-backed hedge fund, Burns also was a board member of the largest retailer in the world, Walmart (WMT accepting BTC?), and is currently on the board of the one company that is at the nexus of the Internet economy, Cisco (and which was punished furiously following Snowden's NSA-spying revelations after projected Chinese revenues imploded and that Cisco may or may not have been collaborating with the government in leaking private data).

In fact, when one considers that in the face of Burns, Circle's proximity to Bitcoin now allows no less than three of the preeminent companies of the old and new economy to keep a close eye on the digital currency and one must be either very excited about the future of BTC.... or very worried. Because if escape from the mainstream is the main target behind the Bitcoin movement, this could be problematic now that Goldman, Cisco and Walmart are all starting to sniff around.

Why a Bitcoin transaction processing company? Simple - these companies are the middlemen that will allow much broader acceptance of BTC by merchants. Consider this in the context of the recent announcement by Overstock that it would begin accepting Bitcoin by mid-2014:

Currently 12.1 million Bitcoin are in circulation, with a total value of about $8.8 billion. At this size, the value of Bitcoin can fluctuate violently based on actions by a few big investors or the Chinese government. This is a problem: If a retailer saves 3 percent on credit card transactions, but the value of Bitcoin loses 5 percent before the retailer can convert it back into dollars, the concept will quickly lose its luster.


Bitcoin-processing companies such as Bitpay and Coinbase take on this risk for merchants, offering to convert Bitcoin into U.S. dollars immediately. But they might not be able to handle that risk if any serious slice of Overstock’s transactions comes in Bitcoin, says Barry Silbert, the founder and chief executive of SecondMarket and an investor in both companies. “When you start talking to companies like Overstock or Amazon, they’d only be able to guarantee those rates to a certain transaction amount,” he says. Bitpay processed $100 million in transaction in 2013. “I think the system is going to expand as quickly as it needs to,” says Stephanie Yargo, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Well, maybe not Bitpay, but its competitors such as Circle might, especially if directly or indirectly backed by the balance sheet of, say, Goldman Sachs, especially if in some joint venture with Walmart. Because whereever the money is, either fiat or digital, one can be sure to find Goldman.

Finally, here is the full bio of the Goldman and Cisco, and now Circle, director:

M. Michele Burns

Director Since: October 2011 

Committees: Chair, Audit Committee; member of all other standing committees 

Other Current Public Company Directorships: Cisco Systems, Inc.

Other Public Company Directorships within past 5 years: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 

Career Highlights

  • Chief Executive Officer, Retirement Policy Center, sponsored by Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC); Center focuses on retirement public policy issues (October 2011 - Present); Center Fellow and Strategic Advisor, Stanford University Center on Longevity (August 2012 - Present)

  • Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mercer LLC, a subsidiary of MMC and a global leader in human resource consulting, outsourcing and investment services (September 2006 – early October 2011)

  • Chief Financial Officer, MMC, a global professional services and consulting firm (March 2006 – September 2006)

  • Chief Financial Officer, Chief Restructuring Officer and Executive Vice President, Mirant Corporation, a competitive energy company (May 2004 – January 2006)

  • Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Delta Air Lines, Inc., an air carrier, which filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in September 2005 (including various other positions, 1999 – April 2004)

  • Senior Partner and Leader, Southern Regional Tax Practice, Arthur Andersen LLP, an accounting firm (including various other positions, 1981 –1999)

Other Professional Experience and Community Involvement

  • Board member and Treasurer, Elton John AIDS Foundation

Experience and Qualifications

As the former Chief Financial Officer of several global public companies, Ms. Burns brings to our Board substantial expertise in accounting and the review and preparation of financial statements, which she draws upon as our Audit Committee Chair. In addition, as the former CEO of Mercer LLC, Ms. Burns brings to our Board her experience in human capital management and strategic consulting, which assists our Board in its oversight of our firm’s strategy. Through her service on the boards of directors and board committees of other public companies and not-for-profit entities, Ms. Burns has developed additional leadership and corporate governance expertise.

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Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:18 | 4281650 fonestar
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Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:21 | 4281656 Dick Buttkiss
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BITCOIN!! ... will flush Shitcoin down the toilet!

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:25 | 4281664 Richard Chesler
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Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:34 | 4281674 InjectTheVenom
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Michele Burns ... isn't she Dick's sister ?

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:02 | 4281741 Skateboarder
Skateboarder's picture

No, Montgomery's.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:19 | 4281774 q99x2
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Doesn't look at all like Olivia Cockburns.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:23 | 4281790 Skateboarder
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They should've called it Circlejerk Internet Financial.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:34 | 4281806 Scarlett
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Fonestar is XenoFrog.  

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 14:02 | 4281852 macholatte
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me thinks this is the beginning of yet another digital currency that will become less volitile and blessed by the establishment..... made legitimate, then the squid will own it.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 14:55 | 4281935 mjcOH1
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"Michele Burns ... isn't she Dick's sister ?"

I would touch neither the Bitcoin nor the Director.   Not even with a stolen dick.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 15:24 | 4282013 BellyBrain
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The mid-term future of money is BTC and other crypto currencies.

The long-term future of money is NO money.

Humans will eventually realize that money is the cornerstone of their enslavement and move towards something like a Resource Based Economy combined with a time-bank system so that people can exchange services amongst each other, with everyone's time valued equally.  But that's a long way off.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 17:05 | 4282159 Dick Buttkiss
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"The long-term future of money is NO money."

Yes, but not as you imagine and not a long way off.

Instead, crypto-currencies will relentlessly increase purchasing power, even as the productivity of advanced technology (think: computer electronics) does likewise. The combination will, in a few short decades (if that), drive prices to the vanishing point, at which time material scarcity will give way to abundance, and money — along with wealth and poverty — will pass into history.

And so, too, will the state, as it is nothing if not scarcity-based and will therefore have no place is a world of abundance.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 18:07 | 4282286 Prisoners_dilemna
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First when the dollar dies, the companies wont want to exchange bitcoin into anything else. GS is picking the wrong business model for the long term.

In my opinion the long term money making service will be bitcoin vaults. Safe storage. Already 500,000 out of 12,000,000 bitcoins have been lost.

Second GS may just finally have a useful role to play.

Bitcoin will force honesty onto the market place. I'm not saying we will get rid of these. But the cozy relationship between the counterfeitter in chief and its subsidaries will fall by the wayside.

Will GS adopt and thrive or remain stuck in its old ways?

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 20:15 | 4282458 Dick Buttkiss
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"First when the dollar dies, the companies wont want to exchange bitcoin into anything else."

So why bother? Just exchange Bitcoin as the money of a new, free, truly democratic order that has no need of government fiat or even of government:

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 20:12 | 4286901 MeelionDollerBogus
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the grid won't even BE HERE to use for any such cryptocurrencies. They will all die because the grid itself will be gone.

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 20:08 | 4286899 MeelionDollerBogus
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gold & silver coin as money is a resource-based economy. Gold & silver are resources. As is oil, medicine, etc.
A no-money system is a no-economy no-resources system.
The day money is never used is the day resources don't exist.
You sound like you've been brainwashed by the Penus Project and Zeitshite into pretending the precise opposite of a resource based economy is a resource based economy, pretending that the precise OPPOSITE of abundance is abundance.
The preaching of Jaques Fresco and Peter Joseph Merola, frauds extraordinaire, is that by metering every atom & ensuring you can have some only by their permission of a global computing system and only on a time-share, it will be "abundant".

Fucking morons.

As for valuing time equally that's NONSENSE: MY TIME IS WORTH MORE THAN YOURS because I do better things WITH my time than you can.
Until you're as smart as I am, and as productive, your time is WORTH MUCH LESS than mine.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 14:54 | 4281956 Spigot
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And like the Andromeda Strain, "if you nuke it, we'll never be rid of it". Thing is, anyone can duplicate Bitcoin, call it 'macaroni' and use it within their group for trade. So, if goldman ends up owning BTC, it will simply be replaced by the people.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 17:49 | 4282257 Mr. Magoo
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Let the manipulation begin

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 20:43 | 4282495 malikai
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Just because you're evil, doesn't mean you're stupid.

I'd figure it takes smarts to be able to survive as evil.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 00:23 | 4282763 Dick Buttkiss
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"Just because you're evil, doesn't mean you're stupid. I'd figure it takes smarts to be able to survive as evil."

I recently read (here on ZH?) that you don't have to be smart if you can make people stupid.

Given that the state has no greater objective than to make its subjects stupid, that it might plunder them all the easier, I would counter your figuring by saying that evil survives by staying one step ahead of the stupidity that it propagates.

That this is an evolutionary dead-end should be obvious, and reason enough (as if more were needed) to put an end to the state.

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 20:06 | 4286885 MeelionDollerBogus
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and may the odds ever be in your FAVAHHhhhhh

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:36 | 4281672 DoChenRollingBearing
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Bitcoin is a phenomenom that needs urgent study.  

My best understanding of it (and, again, I am an outsider and a beginner) leads me to think that the apparently open-source nature of the software and the network may mean it is sturdy and can be thoroughly studied by those who are very adept.

My knowledge of the math and encryption behind BTC is superficial.  But, there are almost surely many more smarter brains available to thoroughly examine BTC's architecture and any likely weaknesses.

The NSA (et al) has a LOT of very smart people.  But, I think that "there are more of us than there are of them."

BTC appears to be a worthy addition to the toolboxes of those of us who yearn for freedom and financial independence.  I hope that the technical community probes BTC to the utmost, and that it indeed works as advertised.


I would add that surely BTC has gotten a lot of notice just from the ZH community alone, with so many here who are smart and able to take a crack at looking very hard at BTC.  ZH has done a tremendous service, IMO, by publicizing this interesting new technology.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:42 | 4281697 kushmere
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The movement the Snowden releases have started will be a major factor in the near term future of security. The first time it becomes publically known that the NSA has changed a bank account will be an event. The democratization of money is inevitable.

Also, agreed above on your post.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 16:44 | 4282147 New World Chaos
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A nice, easy way to wreck an organization would be to fake a transfer from its treasury to the account of one of its most competent leaders.  Vaporizing the money would be optional. 

P.S.  What will Sauron do with the bitcoins when the blockchain becomes too big for anyone else to handle?  Will people trust this Squid larva to manage their bitcoins?  Of course they will...

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 17:07 | 4282198 Hapa
Hapa's picture

a well thought-out sinister view on Bitcoin becoming co-opted by the CONTROLLERS:

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 17:38 | 4282241 One World Mafia
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Yes, the govt knows the dollar is done.  Bitcoin comes equipped with NSA backdoors to mining, covering every system of hashing and rehashing, and likely the lion's share of the already half mined going to the govt.

Open source will not protect it from backdoors hidden in crypotgraphy.

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 20:04 | 4286876 MeelionDollerBogus
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actually that's precisely what opensource does:
you remove the offending cryptography & replace it with another.
However, btc won't be saved by this. BTC's inherent flaw is a physical grid for comms that isn't owned by its users AND a second grid for POWER also not owned by its users, and utter destruction if EITHER ONE is compromised with NO WAY to stop such a compromise.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 19:21 | 4282370 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

Good insigntful article, thanks.  Assorted NWO types have taken an interest in BitCoin under the pretense of supporting economic freedom.  I agree that TPTB plan to co-opt BitCoin, which is why the American media and government treatment of BTC has been surprisingly positive. 

One major flaw with the article:  It states that BTC can be printed and handed out as easily as a few keystrokes at the Fed.  This isn't true.  TPTB would have to control 51% of BTC mining in order to do this.  But they will get it eventually.  Mining requires a complete blockchain, so as transaction volume increases, mining will be centralized in the diminishing number of supercomputers that can keep up.  The last few supercomputers will be controlled by the Squid, JPM, the NSA, the Rothschilds, and maybe a couple mining pool owners who will get offers they can't refuse. 

By the end of the decade the main contenders in the currency wars will probably be cryptocurrencies, gold-backed BRICS currencies, and maybe a corrupt but supposedly gold-backed currency manipulated by the IMF.  These currencies will duke it out to see who can suck up the most physical gold.  BTC will do it by creating a deflationary black hole before it is rendered unusable.  The other currencies will suck up gold when TPTB lend at interest while maintaining the gold backing, then they will start up the usual games again, issuing unbacked paper in exchange for the last gold of the sheeple. 

At some point all this hoarding will become utterly pointless.  What will they buy with it?  A seat at the Annunakis' table?  TPTB will be in for a surprise.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 19:34 | 4282403 stacking12321
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hapa, it's an interesting article, but i would not agree with the contention that it's "well thought-out".

the article is overly conspiratorial in nature, and makes many, many assumptions about the "N.W.O" / "Controllers", and what their actions and motives are.

if the author of the article had half as much insight about the "controllers" as he claims, he'd be a multi-billionaire by front running them.

i would expect rantings of this calibre from alex jones, et al.


the fact remains that bitcoin is a way for people to transact directly, bypassing the banking system, and i will continue to use bitcoin.


Sun, 12/29/2013 - 01:15 | 4282800 DoChenRollingBearing
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I agree stacking12321.  The authors did a weak job in trying to "prove" "Controllers" and weaknesses in the encryption.  So far, my experience with (and study of) Bitcoin has been a success and has not thrown off the foul odor of .gov...

I would certainly agree about the authors recommending gold.  Far more of the Central Bank of DoChenRollingBearing's reserves are in gold vs. BTC.

But, BTC is worth watching.  Open-source means (I hope) aggressive examination of the entire Bitcoin Ecosystem.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 05:29 | 4282907 stacking12321
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yes indeed, dcrb.

gold & silver are best for savings. i put a few % in BTC, but it's speculative, of course.

what really excites me about bitcoin is not the specuation / investment value of the BTC units, but the potential that the bitcoin network has to radically transform the way we transact. if we can pull the bankster leeches off our backs that suck away 2% of every credit card transaction, that adds up to serious wealth. and how perfect, and how perfectly natural, that we can send money to anyone we want, any day, any time, without restriction, without having to report to anyone what the money is for or have to fill out any report if it's over $10k. it's truly liberating.

open-source means there's potential for aggressive examination of the code. there's many fringe open source projects with barely any eyeballs on them.

but open-source plus big profit motive (such as with the bitcoin protocol) means that if there is a weakness to exploit in bitcoin, it is already known and being heavily exploited.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:54 | 4281713 Stackers
Stackers's picture

Bitcoin is easy. Genius of it and the bottle neck is the public record block chain that records the movement of every bitcoin. What this allows is the deletion of a clearing house a.k.a. "a bank" to process the transfer and verify and guaratee the transfer of funds and also to store funds in "acconts" for later use, while they charge you fees. Banks dont like this as you can imagine. Since every transaction is recorded in the block chain the chain is getting really big now, the more people use it the bigger it gets. Some rework of the system is going to be needed, but it will come from as you say smarter people then us.

It's growth potential relies on two things. It's increase in places it can be spent and the number of other currancy units being printed by central banks

The current volatility will subside when Bitcoin finds it's fair market value in comparison to other currencies. What is $50 trillion divided by 12 million BTC and you'll start getting close.

The encryption technology doesnt matter. If the goverment wants to come and take your "wealth" than they will. No matter what you try to do to hind it.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:55 | 4281732 Rock On Roger
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India moves to block bitcoin


Stack On


Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:04 | 4281745 Stackers
Stackers's picture

If you read the full story on this one ...... No India did not move to block Bitcoin. It shut down one exchange that was operating illegally under it's money transfer laws.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 15:00 | 4281971 BitStorm
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Dummy couldn't even make it to the second sentence....

"The Reserve Bank of India has warned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies, including bitcoins, about "potential financial, legal, customer protection and security related risks" they are exposing themselves to."

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 17:40 | 4282247 One World Mafia
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They are just making sure they get their tax cut.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:13 | 4281765 rubiconsolutions
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"If the goverment wants to come and take your "wealth" than they will. No matter what you try to do to hind it."

I'm sure that was some kind of Freudian slip. Hind your hind end. Pretty sure you meant to say hide it but most certainly the government is used to sticking it in our hind ends. All the government has to do if they see BTC as a threat is to allocate a small part of their computing power (see: Bluffdale, UT) to mining and decrypting the damned things and have their proxies at Google, Facebook and Amazon do likewise. Voila! All out of the system. P.S. - the little ABC box with the check mark is a spell checker.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:36 | 4281811 stock trout
stock trout's picture
I hind my money in the Caymans.  Nope, spell checker doesn't correct correctly spelled words. 
Sat, 12/28/2013 - 14:42 | 4281926 Abitdodgie
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my spellcheck does not wook

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:31 | 4281804 Bunga Bunga
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Nakamoto proposed blockchain pruning, but it hasn't been implemented yet.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:58 | 4281731 Crash Overide
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I see BTC as more of a replacement service for Visa/MasterCard more so than a currency.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:08 | 4281747 TeMpTeK
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Its also a direct competitor with moneygram and western union....btc fees are way lower than any of the traditional wire services...

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:58 | 4281847 Bunga Bunga
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Lot's of potential for growth, a Keynsian's wet dream.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 02:20 | 4282849 wintermute
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WU share price has stalled for last 2 months. No longer following the S&P herd.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:10 | 4281751 Stackers
Stackers's picture

But your credit card is currency !!! debt = credit = money


It destorys Visa's fee structure

Bitcoin fee typical 0.5%

Visa 2-3%

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:12 | 4281759 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

you're pretty close to ot but the reason visa got big is that people can overdraft and pay 20% interest on that sum. Loansharking on a legal base.

So if bitcoin would ever be able to replace it, people should be able to open a wallet and go negative.
But imagine that the coin goes x10 in that case? people would be complettly broke and own those banks a vast ammount of money. And because it's unregulated that would be a recipe for disaster.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 02:22 | 4282850 wintermute
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Wow. Do you comment, er brain-dump, on ZH while in REM sleep?

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 03:01 | 4282864 Clowns on Acid
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Sudden debt,

No, what you are describing is "borrowed" bitcoins at an interest rate. What should that interest rate be? I would argue 5% p.a. at the moment. US interest rates for 3mths at 1.5%, the 3% transaction rate of the Credit card companies, and the .5% transaction fee.

3 months at 5% seems like a good way to finance a short possie in Bitcoi, as well as giving the lender of Bitcoin a 5% / 3 mth return (20% per annum). Plenty of 2 way action at these carry prices.

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 19:58 | 4286864 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

really? I can get an assigned limit of btc to borrow unsecured, even though dollars & VISA are reversible digitally, and I can default on an unsecured loan VISA gives, and do this with BTC too?
Really? I'll take 10,000 btc at 30% unsecured return rate.
I'll be back in.... never.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 13:08 | 4281748 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

They are interested in bitcoin because of the 2% transaction fees to buy and to sell.
So bitcoin will cost you 4% of you'r wealth if you ever want out.
So they expose a very big downside of paper money in your hand which is virtually free.

Do we really want a world where we pay 4% of our income to banks besides our taxes?!

I'll never buy that crap out of pure conviction. Bitcoin or any other virtual currency is the next criminal enterpirse.

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