A man passes the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
A man passes the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Warren Buffett’s scathing criticism may have crashed the Bitcoin price once again, but the increasing involvement in the sector, of both institutional investors and regulators, does seem to drawing Wall Street ever close to the heart of the crypto-currency market.

Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and well-respected for his prophetic long-term market views, told CNBC ahead of his company’s annual shareholders meeting that Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.” Charlie Munger, Berkshire’s vice-chairman and long-term Buffett confidante, then told the meeting that crypto-currency was akin to “dementia.”

Bitcoin had been closing in on $10,000 at the start of the weekend, but fell nearly 6% on Sunday after Buffett’s comments and has slid ever since. Overnight in the US its price sat at just above $9,000.

Any comment from the so called “Oracle of Omaha,” who with a net worth of close to $90 billion is considered one of the most successful investors of all time, has a tendency to move markets but it will interesting to see what Bitcoin will now do next, especially after the New York Times reported yesterday that the New York Stock Exchange is working on its own bitcoin trading platform.

The NYSE’s parent company, Intercontinental Exchange, according to the New York Times, is developing an online exchange aimed at facilitating large institutional investor trade, and this news comes right on the heels of other signals that big Wall Street money, that to date has stayed cautiously clear, is ready to really move on crypto.

Last week Asia Times reported that the venture capital firm run by billionaire entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel had invested in the Tagomi platform, that plans to be the Bitcoin version of an online brokerage to buy or sell crypto-currencies on behalf of wealthy individuals or private family offices. A Tagomi co-founder is reportedly Greg Tusar, who was the former head of electronic trading at Goldman Sachs.

And Goldman’s itself has reportedly just hired its first employee to focus exclusively on digital currencies. Justin Schmidt has joined the trader’s securities division as its first head of digital asset markets and is preparing to launch a live Goldman Bitcoin trading desk.

News that heavyweights George Soros and the Rockefeller Group have started dabbling in crypto trades has also strengthened the institutional case for crypto. As has the tightening regulatory environment, in New York and globally, that has seen a clampdown on the 2017 tidal wave of crypto-related hedge funds and ICOs.

Warren Buffett’s wonderfully illuminating quote “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked” became the saying that summed up the market crash in 2008.

So just how big are the Wall Street crypto bathers?

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