In July, Arthur Hayes, founder of the Hong Kong-based but Seychelles-registered bitcoin exchange BitMEX, agreed to a debate with economist Nouriel Roubini in Taipei. With Andrew Neil moderating, the organizers billed it “The Tangle in Taipei”.
Shortly after the debate finished, Roubini took to Twitter to cry foul. “Crypto is a mafia hush money racket,” he wrote. “The blockchain conference organizers cowed and caved to BitMEX’s censorship and didn’t tape or broadcast my debate with @CryptoHayes; he had his underlings make the only tape of the debate and is hiding it from view. Release that tape, coward!”
Hayes responded: “Don’t worry, our tapes will exposure [sic] your thin grasp of economics and technology. After seeing these tapes, I would be surprised if you were allowed into any higher learning institution.”
Then he moved on to other things. “Now that I dusted @Nouriel it’s time to party. I will see everyone at AI club circa 11pm. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
After some delay, the video did emerge, but Roubini was not convinced, accusing them of hiding the whole video and concluding: “These folks are worse than blood-sucking leeches.”
Roubini, who referred throughout the debate to “shitcoin” rather than bitcoin, is against the whole idea of cryptocurrency. More specifically, at the heart of the dispute is Roubini’s claim that the BitMEX model, which allows leverage of up to 100 times over bitcoin contracts, is exploitative for retail investors, and that the platform operates without sufficient regulation, being a Seychelles company.
Hayes himself openly said in our recent interview that the counterparties to many of the trades BitMEX matches are emotional investors who represent an opportunity for proprietary shops. “The type of counterparties that we are dealing with are people who are believers or haters,” he told us. “They are coming to this marketplace and trading very emotionally, which is evident in the volatility. That’s amazing for very cool-headed statistical arbitrage-type shops.” It’s less amazing for retail on the other side.
There weren’t many cool heads in the aftermath of the debate, that’s for sure. By July 8, Hayes was writing to Roubini: “You are boring me.” Roubini, in turn, called him “a sleazebag… still hiding in his Seychelles cave.”
It’s pleasing to note that the finer points of cryptocurrency responsibility are being played out in the measured tones of wise people.