Regulators may be skeptical of the burgeoning ICO market, where outright fraud isn’t uncommon, but that isn’t stopping some of the world’s largest audit and consulting firms from trying to win their business.
PWC revealed that it will begin accepting payment for its consulting services in bitcoin because it is increasingly working with startups in the city involved in cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the open-ledger technology that processes bitcoin transactions by logging them on a public record. The firm also noted its advisory work for initial coin offerings – which typically collect payment in bitcoin and Ethereum – along with crypto exchanges and crypto funds, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“This decision helps illustrate how we are embracing new technology and incorporating innovative business models across our full range of services,” Raymund Chao, chairman of PwC Asia-Pacific, said. “It is also an indication that bitcoin and other established cryptocurrencies have now developed into more broadly accepted forms of settlement."
ICOs have two important characteristics that would pique PwC’s partners’ interest: Plenty of cash on hand, and many intractable problems.
Of course, PwC isn’t the first major company to accept bitcoin: Overstock.com has been accepting payment in bitcoin for years. Dish Network and Microsoft also accept payment for some services in bitcoin.
The US has taken steps to crack down on ICOs, with the SEC having recently opened several civil actions against them. Meanwhile, China has banned them entirely. As the large pots of money accumulated have spurred internal conflict and in some cases outright embezzlement, some of the largest offerings are already crumbling.
But they’re on track to raise as much as $4 billion this year alone. And despite the bad press and regulatory scrutiny, the market hasn’t cooled.
Overstock.com claims it’s building a trading platform that will help legitimize the market, and at least one other company is building what’s essentially an exchange for ICO tokens.
The move also makes sense from a trend-following standpoint. Bitcoin has climbed more than 950% this year alone. And with several new derivatives products hitting the market, PwC will have more options for hedging its exposure.
However, on Thursday, the price of a single coin had fallen 16% to $9,400 a coin, well below its recent peak above $11,000.