Will the U.S. Treasury go after Tether?

The Treasury is expanding, and setting its sites on crypto.

U.S. currency has not always been centralized. In the mid-1800s, private currency systems were commonplace. Factories, merchants, bankers and other organizations issued their own currency, with varying degrees of acceptance. Canada also followed the same practice.

A private bank note, issued by the Waltham Bank in Massachusetts.

When the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, as much as one-third of the currency in the U.S. (public or private) was believed to be counterfeit. Bank issuance of private currency was outlawed. A central banking network was created.

The Industrial Revolution brought increased sophistication to some counterfeiting efforts. This sophistication attracted organized crime rings to the practice. In response, the U.S. Treasury formed a new law enforcement agency to combat counterfeiting: the Secret Service.

Rendition of a counterfeit coin raid by the Secret Service, in the 1870s.

At its formation, the role of the Secret Service was strictly investigative, although it’s investigative work branched in to domestic surveillance. Organized crime rings involved in counterfeiting were often involved in other forms of illicit businesses as well.

Crime syndiates didn’t take kindly to the Secret Service attempting to destroy their source of income. When a plot to assassinate President Cleveland was uncovered in 1894, the Secret Service began guarding the White House, the beginning of their now widely-known role of protecting the President.

After the 9/11 attacks, the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland gathered several arms of federal law enforcement under its umbrella, including the Secret Service.

As of February 2021, that has changed. In February 2020, President Trump delivered the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2021. That change includes moving the Secret Service back to the Treasury, and earmarking $2.4 billion dollars specifically to investigate cryptocurrency crimes.

The text of the budget is vague, and the scope has the potential to be enormous. The new Secret Service will investigate crypto-specific crimes, such as ICO scams or exchanges getting hacked. They may investigate crypto payment scams such as ransomware. They may investigate cryptocurrency’s use in the commission of a crime, such as a murder-for-hire plot.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that vast majority of cryptocurrency enthusiasts don’t want to see theives and hackers get away with stealing someone else’s money. They don’t want to see the purveyors of ICO scams disappear without consequence, and they certainly don’t want crypto to be associated with violent crime.

However, this change could set the state for legal questions that are broadly detrimental to the space. Tether has had trouble with the law. The Secret Service has its deepest history with investigating counterfeiters. Will Tether or any other crypto be investigated in that fashion?

Will a heavy-handed action be lobbied for and supported by the likes of GrayScale, who much rather that you buy shares of their Litecoin trust at 1500% markup, instead of you buying LTC for spot price an exchange?

With Bitcoin breaking $60,000 and strong institutional interest following suit, the cryptocurrency operating environment will be evolving in to something different than what we have seen since the 2017 swing high. The game is changing because financial interests are changing.

Due to the learning curves associated with cryptocurrency, enthusiasts tend to be very intelligent, agile, and adaptable. There may be any changes coming our way over the next several months. How much benefit retail traders will see from these changes is not yet known.

Security Consultant, Trade Crypto Live, www.TCLeducation.com