The price of bitcoin surged Wednesday as President Biden signed an executive order on cryptocurrencies that the White House described as the first "whole-of-government approach to addressing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits of digital assets." In a statement, the White House, noting that an estimated 40 million Americans have bought cryptocurrencies or other digital assets, said "explosive growth" in the sector created an opportunity to "reinforce American leadership" in the global financial system. But it said the growth also raises concerns about issues including consumer protection and national security.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought fresh attention to possible problems with cryptocurrencies, including the potential for evading sanctions, reports the Washington Post. The White House says the order calls for an "unprecedented focus of coordinated action" across all relevant government agencies to counter risks to national security from illegal transactions. The order calls for the government to establish a "framework to drive US competitiveness and leadership in, and leveraging of, digital asset technologies," and to place "urgency on research and development" of a digital dollar. Agencies have been given at least 180 days to prepare their reports.
The Biden order removes some of the uncertainty that has surrounded the crypto industry, and execs at many firms welcomed the news, CNBC reports. In a tweet, Jeremy Allaire, CEO of crypto firm Circle, described it as "a watershed moment for crypto, digital assets, and Web 3, akin to the 1996/1997 whole of government wakeup to the commercial internet." Lee Reiners, executive director of Duke University School of Law’s Global Financial Markets Center, tells the Wall Street Journal that the order is a "complete 180" from the crackdown on cryptocurrencies many had been expecting. "This is as close to an embrace of crypto as you could have hoped for from this Biden administration, if you’re pro-crypto," he says. (Read more cryptocurrency stories.)