Last December, Boston University School of Management professor Mark T. Williams issued a prediction that drew rapt attention from the mainstream media, as well as the united ire of the bitcoin industry, when he boldly projected that the price of bitcoin would lose 99% of its value and fall below $10 by the end of June 2014.
However, at press time, the price of bitcoin on CoinDesk’s USD Bitcoin Price Index remains well above this figure, rising 34% in May to pass the US$600 mark. But, if Williams was hoping the community would forget his prediction, he was proven false this week when a number of leaders in the bitcoin space began to call for Williams to comment on what they feel is the inaccuracy of his prior remarks.
For example, Bitcoin Magazine published an extensive piece dedicated to analyzing Williams’ past statements on bitcoin, while VC investor Erik Voorhees took to Twitter to question whether Williams would face his critics now that his projections haven’t come to fruition.
Mark T. Williams, professor of finance at Boston, was wrong about Bitcoin. I wonder if he’ll acknowledge his error? http://t.co/JONvVmMFye
— Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) May 30, 2014
Williams remains defiant
In a new interview with CoinDesk, Williams opened up about his famous prediction, offering a defiant analysis of why he is still convinced the current high price of bitcoin won’t remain for long.
Williams told CoinDesk:
“I continue to stick to my 2013 prediction that bitcoin is grossly overpriced and the price will eventually adjust dramatically downward as the priced-for-perfection expectations set by bitcoin promoters cannot be met.”
Williams suggested that while “asset bubbles cannot be easily timed”, the dramatic swings in price displayed by bitcoin provide evidence that consumers should be weary of making digital currency investments.
He added: “Will this bubble be completely deflated in the next six months to a year? Time will tell. In January 2013 it was worth only $13. If the question is, ‘Do I still see bitcoin dropping to these much lower levels in the future?’ The answer is yes.”
History will decide
Responding to the veracity of his prediction, Williams stated that he believes his projection, that bitcoin would decline in value by as much as 99%, has perhaps been more accurate than those in the digital currency community concede.
For example, he cited the February flash crash that drove prices down at major bitcoin exchange BTC-e to as low as $102, a drop, he says, of more than 90% from bitcoin’s market peak of roughly $1,200.
Williams reiterated that, long-term, his prediction will be more correct than those issued by the industry’s thought leaders, in part because of the demonstrated instability in the market:
“In contrast to the Winkelvoss twins that prognosticated that Bitcoin would rise to a mind boggling price of $40,000, I am confident that the true value of Bitcoin is closer to my estimate than theirs.”
Ecosystem improvements aren’t enough
When asked whether the bitcoin community has done enough to address and improve the safety of the ecosystem in the wake of Mt. Gox, Williams was equally critical.
In particular, Williams took aim at the industry’s major trade organisation, the Bitcoin Foundation, stating that this group has been especially slow to address the technology’s central issues or to raise awareness of these potential faults to the general public, stating:
“The bitcoin ecosystem still remains shaky as measured by the drama that continues to unfold at the Bitcoin Foundation. This organization continues to lack strong corporate governance and does not send out a positive message to the market.”
Williams also laid the blame on regulators, who he criticized as not going far enough to protect consumers, despite the wide range of warnings issued by central banks and government bodies internationally:
“For bitcoin to be successful regulation needs to be coordinated on an international basis. […] Recent stern warnings to consumers by the SEC and FINRA about the high risks of bitcoin do not address the critical issue of which agency or group of agencies should regulate and have oversight and enforcement control.”
Bitcoin bubble remains
Williams indicated that despite bitcoin’s recent price resilience, he still feels that it remains “grossly over-inflated” due to what he views as its “concentrated ownership, artificially limited supply and overhyped demand”.
The capital markets professor suggested that rather than looking at bitcoin’s comparative recent price stability, the ecosystem should remember the losses that consumers incurred in the wake of the insolvency and bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, stating:
“The important story which seems to be missed is that there are many investors that bought at the top of the market at $1,200 only six or so months ago and are now sitting on sizable market losses.”
Williams also suggested that he is not alone in this prediction, saying that more academics are likely to begin taking his viewpoint publicly. Specifically, he mentioned Yale University professor Robert Shiller, who has previously come forward to denounce bitcoin as an asset bubble.
Williams concluded: “I am not alone in the view that bitcoin is in a hyper bubble that will eventually pop.”