Banks Continue to “Block” Bitcoin, CITIC Says Bans Use of Accounts for Bitcoin Transactions

Offshore Banking Industry Begins to Reject Bitcoin

China's Other Large Banks: China CITIC Bank Corp Ltd

Recently, CITIC Bank announced that in order to protect the property rights and interests of the public, maintain the legal tender status of RMB and prevent money laundering risks, from now on, no institution or individual shall use the Bank’s account for the top-up and withdrawal of transaction funds of Bitcoin, Litecoin, etc., purchase and sale of relevant transaction top-up codes, etc., or transfer relevant transaction funds through the Bank’s account. Once discovered, the Bank has the right to take measures such as suspending relevant account transactions and canceling relevant accounts.

In December 2013, the People’s Bank of China and five other ministries jointly issued a notice requiring financial institutions and payment institutions to refrain from conducting business related to bitcoin. In April 2014, China Merchants Bank announced that it would prohibit its accounts from trading in “digital currencies” such as Bitcoin and Litecoin. Then, 13 banks, including Huaxia Bank, China Construction Bank, Bank of China, Everbright Bank, Ping An Bank, Agricultural Bank, Pudong Development Bank, Guangfa Bank, Industrial Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank, Bank of Communications, and Minsheng Bank, issued similar announcements in just two weeks, saying “no” to bitcoin en masse.

The foreign banking industry is beginning to reject bitcoin. In March, HSBC Holdings reportedly issued a message to its customers that it had banned them from buying shares in U.S. business intelligence firm MicroStrategy on trading platform HSBC Invest Direct, saying the company’s shares were a “virtual currency product. The bank does not facilitate the purchase or exchange of products related to or involving the performance of virtual currencies. The bank still allows customers to hold, sell and transfer shares in MicroStrategy, but new purchases or transfers are prohibited. HSBC is not interested in investing directly in virtual currencies and has limited interest in facilitating products or securities that derive value from VCs (virtual currencies).

However, some foreign investment banks and custodians are more active in bitcoin. In March, Morgan Stanley announced it was the first major U.S. bank to offer bitcoin fund services to its wealth management clients. JPMorgan Chase followed suit, announcing in April that it plans to offer an actively managed bitcoin fund to its wealth management clients for the first time. Bank of New York Mellon launched a new unit in February to help clients hold, transfer and issue digital assets, while BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, added bitcoin to the eligible investment categories of two of its funds.

On May 6, Goldman Sachs Group announced the launch of a principal-free delivery forward trade linked to the price of bitcoin. After a client places an order, Goldman Sachs will use Cumberland DRW as its trading partner to buy and sell bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in block trades.

But Bitcoin has also been criticized. At this year’s Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, “stock god” Warren Buffett made little comment about bitcoin, but Charlie Munger didn’t hide his distaste for it, “the whole development is disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization,” just as Wilde’s satire on British fox hunting, “a bunch of inarticulate people going after a bunch of prey that can’t be swallowed.” The price of bitcoin peaked at about $64,400 in April of this year, before gradually falling back to its current price of about $55,900.

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