It’s Time to Scrap AML/KYC Entirely

Bitcoin OG Bruce Fenton argues that know-your-customer and anti-money laundering requirements are deeply flawed and ineffectual.

AccessTimeIconFeb 27, 2024 at 7:47 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 14, 2024 at 5:27 p.m. UTC

It’s time to scrap AML / KYC entirely.

The idea that politicians should know how citizens spend their money is a new and deeply flawed idea.

Bruce Fenton is the CEO of Chainstone Labs, an adviser at Watchdog Capital and co-host of the Satoshi Roundtable community event. He is also the former executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation and ran for Senate in New Hampshire in 2022.

An entire generation has been fooled into thinking this is a necessary part of finance and the world continues to double down on an unworkable system.

Only 30 years ago, when I started my career as a stockbroker/financial adviser, I could call you on the phone and sell you Microsoft (MSFT) or IBM (IBM) stock and I did not need your date of birth or social security number. You didn’t even need to have money in the account.

From 1990s to the post 9-11 Patriot Act (a horrible law) saw a radical increase in anti-money laundering and know-your-customer (AML/KYC) requirements. These seem to get worse every year.

In my office in the 90s when we were first required to take a drivers license, the older brokers were incredulous: “What do you mean we need an ID for someone buying stocks?!? What’s next, you need an ID to buy gas or groceries?”

Now, just 25 years later an entire generation thinks this is normal or how it should be. Worse yet, some think the system won’t work without it. The opposite is true — the compliance gums up the works and adds friction where it should not exist.

While the regulator class arrogantly acts as if AML/KYC protections are their birthright and ending the regime is some sort of untouchable rail, the justifications are weak.

Why do we have these regimes? To stop “money laundering?" What is that? Who is the victim? Is it to stop “human trafficking” or “terrorism?" If so, how? Is it to “stop” the 12,000 entities on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list by messing with the billions of people not on the list?

Are major criminals somehow stopped by this? Has it stopped crime? Even if it did, is it worth burdening millions of firms and billions of people with paperwork and procedures that slow down commerce? Shouldn’t efforts be made to go after the actual criminals rather than encumbering the entire world with an inefficient compliance regime?

Money must be able to flow and move. People must be able to take risks and make investments as they choose. This is the lifeblood of a solid economy and the jobs, growth, prosperity and peace that comes with it. The U.S. (and by extension much of the world due to our influence) is sacrificing jobs, innovation and opportunities by chasing an extremely ineffective and indirect compliance regime.

The entire idea belongs back in the dumpster of history. Let the investigators chase terrorists and human traffickers for those actual crimes and let the other billions of us use and move our money as we wish.

A version of this article was first posted on social media.


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