In a scathing critique of the crypto industry, former Chief of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Internet Enforcement, John Reed Stark, has raised serious concerns about the viability and promises of digital collectibles, particularly non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

Stark compares the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of NFTs to the infamous fad of pet rocks in the 1970s. Drawing attention to a new study’s findings, he asserts that most NFT collections have rapidly lost value, leaving investors with little to show for their purchases. 

Stark argues that fractionalized links to the metadata of JPEG files, which form the basis of NFTs, are essentially a con game. He claims that the NFT marketplace is inorganic and “rigged,” with rampant market manipulation and fraud being tolerated and allegedly encouraged. 

Stark criticizes venture capitalists and Wall Street profiteers for capitalizing on the dreams of decentralization, financial inclusion, and instant wealth promised by NFTs while retail buyers suffer significant losses.

Former SEC Official Warns Of Crypto And NFT Pitfalls

According to Stark, cryptocurrency fails to fulfill several key roles that proponents often attribute to it. First, he argues that crypto cannot be considered a reliable investment due to the lack of regulatory oversight, transparency, consumer protections, and market manipulation prevalent in the industry. 

Second, he contends that crypto’s extreme price volatility, high fees, burdensome tax implications, and infinite risks prevent it from functioning effectively as a currency. 

Additionally, he asserts that crypto lacks utility and intrinsic value, making it an unsuitable store of value. Lastly, Stark criticizes that crypto can serve as a financial panacea for the unbanked, arguing that it perpetuates predatory inclusion and affinity fraud.

Stark challenges the notion that blockchain technology is the revolutionary solution it is often hailed to be. While acknowledging some potential applications in specific contexts, he asserts that blockchain remains a “limited” and “inefficient append-only ledger” with numerous security issues. 

He warns against falling prey to misguided groupthink and crypto-sophistry, highlighting that most current blockchain projects are private and do not deliver on the promises of decentralization and transformative technological advancements.

Stark further argues that crypto presents a significant risk of affinity fraud, particularly for disadvantaged and disaffected communities. Despite claims that crypto can help bridge the financial inclusion gap, he asserts that it exacerbates existing inequalities and carries significant risks and drawbacks. 

Stark remarks paint a grim picture of the cryptocurrency industry, asserting that grift, deception, and fraud are deeply ingrained within its ecosystem. However, according to many, Crypto and blockchain technology offer financial inclusion, innovation, and decentralized ownership opportunities. 

As the industry matures and regulatory frameworks continue to take shape, it is crucial to embrace the potential benefits while remaining vigilant about addressing risks. 

Total crypto market cap declined on the daily chart to the $1.035 trillion. Source: TOTAL on TradingView.com

Featured image from iStock, chart from TradingView.com 

Ronaldo Marquez

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