Bitcoin hasn’t exactly been Overstock’s best friend – Overstock announced in June that it lost $117k in its investments in the digital currency so far – but Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne has his own ideas for how the technology that powers bitcoin could shake up Wall Street’s markets.
Byrne’s big idea for tapping into blockchain technology is to use it to change the way the stock market operates. As reported by Wired this week, he wants to “bust this market open” — and by that he means that instead of having the agent lenders and prime brokers control the market, he wants stockholders to have a better share of the market.
“We’re taking a market that’s in the dark,” Byrne said, “and we’re putting it on an exchange.”
This bitcoin-inspired stock-loan system was revealed earlier this week by Byrne while at a cocktail party at the NASDAQ stock exchange. He further claims that his system, called TØ.com (an Overstock subsidiary), is close to gaining SEC approval.
And, the blockchain technology will lead the way as the underlying mechanism to put the money system more in the hands of the people and less in the hands of the government and big banks.
Byrne’s certainly not the first to imagine how Wall Street could use the blockchain to streamline how money moves across the markets.
In fact, in May, NASDAQ said it plans to leverage blockchain technology as part of an enterprise-wide initiative. NASDAQ isn’t necessarily after bitcoin, but it is looking to use the tech behind the digital currency. Now, the New York Stock Exchange group says it’s planning to rollout multiple trials of how the blockchain could be used for trading purposes. The New York Stock Exchange has also expressed interest in the technology — going as far as becoming an investor in bitcoin exchange Coinbase.
While there certainly seems to be a shift toward examining how the blockchain technology could play a role on Wall Street, there are still some who suggest that opening up the markets online wouldn’t necessarily be popular among those in power.
“As with any closed system, the greatest beneficiaries of that system are the biggest participants,” said Josh Galper, who runs a financial consulting firm, Finadium. “Would the largest borrowers and lenders be keen to move to a new system and to provide more equal access to borrowers and lenders? I don’t believe so.”
Either way, Byrne is hoping that these talks can push Wall Street in a new direction. And that means sharing the blockchain technology with whoever wants to embrace it.
“We’ve shown the world what we have,” Byrne said. “And now I’m willing to listen to anyone who wants to talk.”
Will the financial community talk back?
Bitcoin Tracker Week 85
The Good, The Bad — The Top Bitcoin Stories Of The Week
Bitcoin Is “Not Subject To Ownership”
What happens to all those bitcoins that people lost in the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange collapse? Well, for one, they won’t be getting those bitcoins back.
A judge in Tokyo ruled that bitcoin is “not subject to ownership,” as he explained to a plaintiff that there was nothing he could do to recover the bitcoins lost after the bitcoin exchange went bust. The judge said the “intangible nature and reliance on third parties” made it so bitcoins aren’t subject to the same rules as regulated currencies.
This case stemmed from a plaintiff who is attempting to get back 458 bitcoins, which at today’s rate would be worth more than $128,000.
Politicians Who Support Bitcoin
As we approach the next election, the digital currency discussions probably won’t make it to most prime-time televised debates, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t politicians who are trying to get bitcoin and digital currencies in the spotlight by showing their support.
Here’s a few politicians who’ve spoke up about bitcoin:
- Jared Polis (U.S. Congressman): “If there was an agency that reacted in an irrationally negative way to digital currencies, I would be happy to rally support [in Congress] to restrict their funding.”
- Dan Elder (U.S. Congressional candidate): “I’m accepting BTC donations to solely fund my campaign to take a stance against the Federal Reserve and its policies, which have weakened the U.S. dollar.”
- George Galloway (Mayoral candidate for London): “Now, for the first time, the radically disruptive technology of blockchains can provide a technological backbone for true, 100 percent transparency. Political accountability, it seems, is about to take on a whole new meaning.”
- Gulnar Hasnain (Green Party candidate, London district race): “Surprisingly, the Green Party is vocal on the same issues as the bitcoin movement – more decentralized power, smaller government, a need for a shift in the concentration of power in the banking system and a more inclusive society.”
- Rand Paul (Republican Presidential Hopeful): “I’ve been fascinated by the concept of it, but I never would have purchased it myself. I’m just a little bit skeptical.”
- Rick Perry (Republican Presidential Hopeful): Said that he supports looking into “regulatory breathing room” for bitcoin.
Bitcoin Flies In Poland
LOT, a Polish airline company announced that it would start accepting bitcoin, with the help of Adyen and BitPay. And here’s what Jiri Marek, LOT Sales and Distribution Executive Director, said in a news release about bitcoin:
￼”We are open for every need of every single client. We go for innovations thanks to which their journey is even more comfortable and pleasant not only on board, but also much earlier – at the stage of buying the ticket. Many of them do the shopping online, including plane tickets. It’s just the matter of time when payments with the online currency will become as popular as using credit cards today. We notice this potential, which is why we are one of the first airlines in the world to give its passengers the possibility of paying with bitcoins as early as today.”
Lawyers Who Love Bitcoin
Finding — and paying for — a lawyer just got easier for bitcoin users. Lawyer.com, an online lawyer directory, announced it is now accepting bitcoin as a payment method.
Allowing users to pay with bitcoin will permit faster and cheaper transactions, the company said. Lawyer.com members and potential clients who pay with bitcoin will also receive a 10 percent discount on services.
“Bitcoin transactions reduce our costs, improve transaction speed and provide full billing transparency. In return, we can offer our services at significant savings,” Lawyer.com CEO Gerry Gorman said, noting the low processing fees associated with the decentralized currency.
Mt. Gox Bitcoin Chief Gets Busted
Mark Karpelès, the head of collapsed Japanese bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, has been arrested in Tokyo on fraud and embezzlement charges. The police said that Karpelès “unjustly inflated the balance” of an account registered under his name by falsifying transaction records on a system which was used by Mt. Gox to convert bitcoins to dollars.
“He created false information that $1 million had been transferred into the account, when in fact it had not been,” the police said in a short statement.
The company, which was once the largest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and Japan in February last year after it reported a loss of 850,000 bitcoins worth $450 million and $27 million in cash.
Of the 850,000, the company reportedly recovered 200,000 bitcoins from an overlooked part of its system. However, while filing for bankruptcy, the exchange couldn’t clarify if it just lost the bitcoins or if hackers stole it as it clearly had a weak system in place to manage the assets.
Fold Brings Bitcoin Payments To Major Retailers
Fold, the app that lets consumers “spend bitcoin in the real world” is attempting to spread its presence in the U.S. by pairing with more major retailers.
Fold will soon allow consumers in the U.S. to pay at Starbucks, Whole Foods and Target as part of its recent expansion efforts into the U.S. And for the loyal bitcoin users in the U.S., this is big news for those who use Fold since they have the opportunity to cash in on special discounts. For example, Starbucks is running a trial period that allows customers who use Fold to get a 20 percent discount on every purchase.
One appeal behind Fold that it’s been recognized for is its ability to replace traditional gift cards. Because gift cards at places like Starbucks often never get fully used, Fold users have the ability to either use the full amount that was added in bitcoin or it is refunded in 24 hours.
UK Leaders Push Closer To Being Bitcoin Hub
A new report indicates that the Australian government wants to update its tax codes to make room for bitcoin. This is also an initiative that’s being looked into in the U.K., Canada, and Singapore — three regions where bitcoin has gained more mainstream acceptance.
Australia, however, is believed to have one of the highest bitcoin ownership rates in the world, as 7 percent of the world’s bitcoin population is said to be flowing through that continent.
“If it is defined as a global currency, this would be a positive step to encouraging the bitcoin market to continue innovating. The Australian bitcoin market will significantly improve,” Coinjar CEO Asher Tan said in an interview.