Central Banks and Regulation of Cryptocurrencies
University of Luxembourg Law Working Paper No. 2019-014
54 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2019 Last revised: 6 Dec 2019
Date Written: July 17, 2019
This paper explores the interface between central banks and cryptocurrencies. Focusing on the European Central Bank (ECB), it identifies the potential threats that the rise of cryptocurrencies would pose to the basic and ancillary tasks of the ECB, in particular, its monetary policy operations and the exercise of its supervisory functions over credit institutions and payment systems. The paper finds that cryptocurrencies can potentially have both direct – through their potential impact on the price stability and monetary policy, and central banks’ monopoly over issuing base money – and indirect effects on central banks, mainly through the institutions and systems that fall under the ECB’s scope of competence.
To address the challenges posed by cryptocurrencies, the ECB may take both legal (including supervisory and oversight) measures and non-legal (or technical) measures. With respect to technical measures, the ECB - to the extent falling within the scope of its competence - may focus on improving the efficiency of existing payment systems and addressing the existing frictions in market infrastructures to indirectly affect the cryptocurrency markets. Alternatively, it can venture into issuing Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Regarding legal measures, central banks could envisage regulating cryptocurrencies either directly or indirectly. However, as the most significant potential impact of cryptocurrencies on central banks is likely to be indirect through the impact of cryptocurrencies on the banking and payment systems, and given the limitations on the ECB’s mandate and its regulatory and supervisory tools, it is apposite for the ECB to consider using indirect strategies and tools to influence cryptocurrency markets. This indirect approach can be implemented through the ECB’s existing supervisory and oversight powers over the banking and payment systems. This paper specifies the direct and indirect measures and assesses their merits in addressing the concerns about cryptocurrencies.
Keywords: Central Bank, European Central Bank, Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, Money, Regulation
JEL Classification: E42, E51, E58, G01, G23, G28, K22, K23, K24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation