Monday, January 27, 2014

IN DEPTH: The High Profile Bitcoin Operator Charlie Shrem Who Has Been Arrested for Money Laundering

The just arrested, Charlie Shrem is a big deal in the Bitcoin community. He is vice chairman of the major Bitcoin advocacy group, the Bitcoin Foundation.

According to the BF web site:
Currently serving as CEO and co-founder of BitInstant, one of the largest, earliest and well known alternative payment companies, Charlie used his position in both the old banking world and new alternative currency world to help pave the way for the Bitcoin economy to emerge in early 2011. Known in the Bitcoin and old hacker communities as 'Yankee', he is also founding member and current Vice Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation. Along with Gareth Nelson, he found the need for a more secure, fast and convenient way of transferring funds between and within payment networks around the world and leads BitInstant through the complex compliance, licensing and regulations of the worldwide banking system.
 Here's Tech Crunch profiling him after the Winklevoss twins invested in his firm, BitInstant:

BitInstant, which has a full-time staff of 16 led by CEO Charlie Shrem, has emerged as a key player in the nascent Bitcoin market: The company already processes approximately 30 percent of the money going into and out of Bitcoin, and last month alone facilitated 30,000 transactions, the Winklevosses said in a phone call this week. The funding is meant to allow the company to further scale up its staff and product as it angles to become the go-to site for Bitcoin transfers.
The Winklevosses say they were attracted to invest in BitInstant in large part because of its leadership. CEO Shrem is the vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, and CIO Alex Waters previously worked with the core developers on the original Satoshi Bitcoin client. “Charlie has been in the space for a very long time, and he has an impeccable reputation among Bitcoiners. He knows everyone in the space and everyone in the space knows him,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “One of the most exciting things about people who are into Bitcoin is that they’re a really passionate community, and Charlie is a passionate entrepreneur. He would be in that category of someone who lives, breathes, and sleeps Bitcoin.”

In a libertarian world, Shrem would have never been arrested. He has done nothing wrong. He has only provided services to willing customers. That said, we do not live in a libertarian world. And, although the government may be incompetent in many ways, if it focuses its force on specific targets it will get them (See: Is Government Really Incompetent?)

Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge is very correct when he writes:
[I]n retrospect Charlie's biggest crime was not being CEO of JPM or, at worst, HSBC, where money laundering and other criminal activity is not only encouraged but rewarded with soaring bonuses. The good news is that one can once and for all confirm that when it comes to "Justice" in the US, some - those who deal with legacy status quo mandated and enforced ponzi scheme fiat - are far more equal than anyone who dares to think outside the Fed's printer.
It is the point I have been trying to make here at EPJ, the government is not going to allow Bitcoin to survive as an alternative currency. At the most, it may survive as a completely tracked transfer system, but that is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that it will totally disappear as JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon speculates.


  1. >It is the point I have been trying to make here at EPJ, the government is not going to allow Bitcoin to survive as an alternative currency. At the most, it may survive as a completely tracked transfer system, but that is the best case scenario.

    Right, we do not in the least live in a free-market world, and no way the present The Powers That Be (TPTB) would allow an end-run without them of course profiting and controlling an alternative payment method. There are two companies in the space backed by big name venture funds, one in bed with Goldman (A Goldman Director is an “advisor”), of which both CEO's testified at recent U.S. Senate Bitcoin hearings. They are attempting to ingratiate themselves with the TPTB by jumping through hoops such as registering with FinCen and state authorities, kissing the ring of myriad govt. players chasing the hot fad of the moment. They want to be the favored ones, shutting out competition using the heavy hand of govt. to do so. The youthful Alt Crypto currency crowd is learning a lesson Mr. Wenzel and myself have learned over time. Ultimately though, virtual payment methods will proliferate, both because govts. want them (taxation tracking, etc.), and fits the needs of the masses. The question is how will it shake out, and will TPTB crowd (or those seeking to be blessed by them) be the winners?

  2. Money laundering is prosecuted in a libertarian society. In a libertarian society, property is protected. If I steal your car and sell it, I have to make the cash I receive look legit. I do that by laundering the cash. Quite silly to suggest money laundering is OK in a libertarian world.

    1. The theft of the car is the property rights violation. What you do after you steal the car is irrelevant to the fact that you stole the car.

      As for making "the cash I receive look legit." Look legit to whom?

    2. No Jerry, you get prosecuted for stealing the car in a libertarian society, not laundering the cash.

  3. "Money Laundering". These days that could mean almost anything.