• Bitcoin is largest holding in Tim Wu’s financial portfolio, representing between 25% and 43% of his assets
  • Once a critic of big tech platforms, Wu predicted in 2017 that bitcoin ‘would crash again’ but that the currency ‘feels tested’

President Biden’s special assistant for technology and competition policy reportedly owns between $1 million and $5 million in bitcoin and at least $100,000 in filecoin.

Tim Wu joined the Biden administration’s National Economic Council in March. His investment in bitcoin is the largest holding in his portfolio, amounting to between 25% and 43% of his assets, according to a personal financial disclosure obtained by Politico.

A White House spokesperson told Politico in a statement that Wu has not worked on matters involving cryptocurrency and is recused from any because of his financial interest.

The price of bitcoin dipped about 11% on Tuesday to below $32,000. Filecoin is an open-source cloud storage marketplace, protocol and cryptocurrency that was released in 2014. It’s currently trading at  $73.18 according to CoinGecko.

The bitcoin bubble

Wu wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times in 2017 that bitcoin was “in a bubble,” noting that it had grown in value from about 39 cents to more than $18,000 in the eight-year span since it launched. The move reflects a transfer of social trust away from government-backed institutions to systems reliant on well-tested computer code, he said at the time.

“Bitcoin may be in a bubble, but not all bubbles are created equal,” he wrote in 2017. “Some are shimmering nothings, reflecting little more than an underlying pyramid scheme. But others are like ocean swells that could become enormous waves. Consider the tech stocks of the late 1990s — a bubble, to be sure, but in retrospect, was Amazon really overvalued?”

Though he added that Bitcoin might never serve well as a general way of buying things due to  its fluctuations, Wu noted that it could function as a store of value that a person can sell.

“Sure, Bitcoin will crash again, but over its lifetime, it has already withstood multiple crashes, runs and splits,” he wrote. “It actually feels tested.”

Wu did not immediately return Blockworks’ request for comment about the investments.

A fresh start

The White House adviser is currently on leave from his job as a professor at Columbia Law School, a role he has held since 2006. Wu has led an American antitrust resurgence in recent years by focusing on the growing power of the big tech platforms, according to his Columbia bio. His tech breakup proposals formed a significant part of the 2020 presidential debate, it notes.

Wu was previously enforcement counsel in the New York Attorney General’s Office and worked on competition policy for the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama. He also worked in antitrust enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission. 

The news of Wu’s cryptocurrency ownership comes after former President Donald Trump told the Fox Business Network on Monday that bitcoin “seems like a scam.”

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce said during a Blockworks webinar earlier this year that a new White House administration would provide a “good time for a fresh start” on how regulators approach digital assets. A frequent dissenter to SEC rulings that block bitcoin-related funds from entering the market, Peirce highlighted incoming SEC chair Gary Gensler’s experience in the crypto industry.

The US Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy has a hearing scheduled for June 9 to discuss opportunities of a central bank digital currency.

  • Ben Strack is a Denver-based reporter covering macro economics, financial services and digital asset management. Prior to joining Blockworks, he covered the asset management industry for Fund Intelligence, and was a reporter and editor for various local newspapers on Long Island. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism.