Bitcoin nosedive continues; nearly 30 large banks sign UN ethics code

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The rout persists
Bitcoin dropped another 6% on Monday, ending the day around $3,800, down more than 80% since peaking near $20,000 late last year. "Now, another worry has emerged: Cryptocurrency miners, the outfits that solve complex equations to generate new digital coins, seem to be losing interest. The amount of computing effort expended by miners, known as the hash rate, has started falling." Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

"If nothing else, bitcoin was supposed to protect people from governments that were destroying their own currencies — governments such as Venezuela's, where inflation is said to be somewhere around 49,000% right now." Yet the drop in the price of bitcoin rivals that of the Venezuelan bolivar, which is down nearly 100% over the same period.

Wall Street Journal

Boom and bust
The "U.S. housing boom is coming to an end," the paper proclaims. With mortgage rates climbing following years of rising home prices, "buyers are queasy."

Passing grade
Standard Chartered's New York branch will no longer have to report to a compliance monitor from the New York Department of Financial Services after Dec. 31. The branch has made "significant progress in the remediation and enhancement" of its anti-money-laundering compliance program, and the bank "has demonstrated its commitment to complying with state and federal anti-money-laundering laws," the DFS said. However, the branch will be required to keep an independent consultant after Jan. 1 to work on existing compliance issues.

Repo madness
Online auto lenders in China have come up with a new way to help them repossess autos: they “install tracking devices in cars by hiding them inside bumpers, under seats or behind mirrors to prevent them from being removed by borrowers. When people fail to repay their debts, collectors act quickly to repossess cars, sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Financial Times

New FSB head
As expected, Randal Quarles, the Federal Reserve's vice chair for financial supervision, has been named the next chair of the Financial Stability Board, starting next month, succeeding Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney. Klaas Knot, the head of the Dutch central bank, will succeed Quarles when his term ends in three years. "The FSB makes recommendations to the G20 nations on financial rules and regulations and has played a significant role in overseeing the rulemaking in the decade since the financial crisis." (American Banker's take here.)

Talk or action?
Nearly 30 large global banks — "including Société Générale and others that have been caught up in scandal in recent years, from Barclays and BNP to ING" — will publicly endorse the U.N.'s new Principles for Responsible Banking this week. "The next question is whether this initiative does anything to underpin a broader definition of responsible banking. There is no explicit mention in the accord that banks should not launder money or manipulate markets. The test will be how quickly those banking scandals disappear from the headlines."

Shape up
Investment banks and asset managers in Europe and Asia need to do more to cut costs and improve their profits, according to Accenture. "The majority of European and Asian investment banks are net destroyers of shareholder value," said Michael Spellacy, the consulting firm's global capital markets lead. "You can't run a business like this any longer."

Tougher scrutiny
Democrats “plan to subject the financial services industry to far greater scrutiny than it has faced in the past two years” as they prepare to take over the House of Representatives early next year. “Over the past two years, Republicans have done what Republicans always do: deregulate. It is up to us to do what we can to monitor the banking industry and its regulators much more carefully,” one party official said.

Pay up
The likely next prime minister of Malaysia wants Goldman Sachs to return more than the $600 million in fees it earned in the alleged 1MBD fraud, calling the bank’s behavior “disgusting.”


Just in time for Christmas
A Bank of America ATM in Houston was "spitting out $100 bills instead of $20s to people who withdrew cash" for about two hours late Sunday and early Monday, creating mayhem as word spread on social media. "A line of cars quickly formed, and several arguments and fights among the crowd that gathered at the ATM machine were reported" before police arrived and the bank shut down the machine.


"Last year I could only dream of owning one bitcoin, now it's possible . . .  I wanna see this thing go so low I can afford to buy 20." — A digital currency investor commenting on the drop in prices.

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Bitcoin Cryptocurrencies Mortgage rates AML ATMs Investment banking Randal Quarles Standard Chartered FSB