Pyramid schemes share one overriding characteristic, according to Debra Valentine, former general counsel of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): They promise consumers or investors large profits based primarily on recruiting others to join their program, not based on profits from any real investment or real sale of goods to the public. Bitcoin products and pyramid scheme share this description, according to Jonathan Harris. He offers a cautionary view in a recent opinion piece for the CFA Institute.
“Bitcoin is too inefficient to be a currency. Certainly, no government has any plans to use it as one,” he wrote. Harris is a chartered financial analyst and vice president, manager of nonretail credit analytics for TD-Bank. “Thus, the sole way most promoters will realize value from their bitcoin holdings is through new entrants into the market.”
Some proponents of bitcoin equate it to investing in gold. This may be a reasonable analogy. Still, even in the best case scenario, both bitcoin and gold share the characteristics of being volatile investments with poor long-term returns. While gold has other uses (e.g. jewelry or art), Harris points out that bitcoin does not. Furthermore, after the supply of new bitcoin buyers is exhausted, final investors will find themselves with assets that decline in value as early investors sell off.
“If it looks like a pyramid scheme and sounds like a pyramid scheme, we should treat it like a pyramid scheme until proven otherwise,” Harris stresses.
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For Harris’ full article on the CFA Institute website, click here.