Cryptocurrencies have had a rough week: the value of Bitcoin plunged to a mere 50 percent of its 2017 peak, and other currencies, such as Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin have seen double-digit losses compared to their heights from last year. Tuesday also witnessed the collapse of BitConnect, an anonymously operated crypto exchange that had been repeatedly accused of running a Ponzi scheme via its proprietary BCC currency.
Taken together, these events may simply act as another reminder of the “volatility” of the cryptocurrency market, which saw Bitcoin rise to a peak of $19,783 on December 17th. Bitcoin has gone through multiple crashes before: in spring 2011, in November 2013, and in January 2017. However, this current bubble comes against a new backdrop: a global tide of regulation against the inchoate cryptocurrency industry. On one hand, these regulations may be scaring Bitcoin investors into selling their coins now before the full impact of regulation makes itself felt. On the other, it may also be threatening suspect exchanges such as BitConnect, with its own token declining in value by 46 percent between December 17th and January 15th — the day before it announced its closure.
In the United States, regulation has reared its head in the form of the SEC. Last month, its newly formed Cyber Unit pressed charges for the first time against PlexCorps, which was accused of defrauding investors through a questionable initial coin offering, or ICO. Almost a week later, SEC chairman Jay Clayton issued a warning on cryptocurrencies to investors, hinting that the commission would begin monitoring the market more closely for any potential violations of securities laws. The US isn’t the only nation taking a harder line on cryptocurrencies, either: the Chinese government tightened its ban on crypto trading this week, and the South Korean government is planning on implementing a similar ban itself.