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Bank of England candidate feels heat from bitcoin's red-hot rally

14 Jan 2021 / 01:52 H.

    By Huw Jones

    LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - A candidate for the Bank of England's supervisory arm for banks defended on Wednesday his senior role on a bitcoin trading platform, saying it took safeguards against money-laundering very seriously.

    Antony Jenkins told parliament's Treasury Select Committee that being on the board of Blockchain is a significant responsibility.

    The former CEO of Barclays was being grilled by lawmakers about his candidacy for the Prudential Regulation Committee at the BoE, whose governor Andrew Bailey has said bitcoin has little intrinsic value.

    A lawmaker asked Jenkins whether it was appropriate that Blockchain was hyping up "speculative and high risk" crypto-assets to the "world and his wife" on Twitter.

    Blockchain advertised on Twitter this week, "Show of hands: Are you buying the dip?"

    Bitcoin rocketed to a record high of $42,000 last Friday, and has since eased, trading around $34,830 on Wednesday.

    Jenkins said that in many ways crypto-assets are highly speculative but they are also part of a larger ecosystem around distributed ledger technology that will be important for finance going forward.

    "We have very significant controls over who we do business with," Jenkins said of Blockchain.

    Earlier this week, the Financial Conduct Authority, whose CEO Nikhil Rathi sits on the PRC, warned consumers of the risks from investments advertising high returns based on crypto-assets.

    Lawmakers questioned whether Jenkins would have enough time for the BoE given he listed six other commitments. He said he expects to relinquish some of them to free up time.

    In 2012, Barclays was the first bank to be fined for trying to rig the Libor interest rate benchmark.

    Jenkins, who joined Barclaycard in 2006 and became CEO of Barclays from 2012 to 2015, was asked if he felt any personal responsibility for the Libor scandal.

    "I have actually spent most of time at Barclays either shutting things down or tidying up problems of the past, as opposed to being involved in driving things forward in an inappropriate way," Jenkins said. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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