Ripple Labs recently announced former US President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker at their upcoming conference in October. Swell, Ripple’s own conference aims to “connect the world’s leaders in policy, payments and technology.”
It’s no surprise that the Clintons will endorse just about anything for a quick buck, but Ripple’s announcement of the former US President’s involvement at the conference has come under some scrutiny within the Bitcoin community.
President Clinton’s speaking engagement at Swell is a massive boost to Ripple’s public image and credibility. But the former President isn’t the first notable personality to have been a featured guest at one of Ripple’s events. Back in May, it invited Snoop Dogg to play at its conference in New York, and more recently, Ripple partnered with Madonna in a month long initiative to raise funds aimed at assisting orphans in Africa.
Ripple’s partnerships with high profile individuals doesn’t stop with celebrities and political notables. Ripple Labs Inc is currently defending a class action lawsuit in California in which investors claim they were sold unregistered securities in the form of Ripple’s XRP token. Ripple is being represented by two former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials, including its onetime Chairwoman, Mary Jo White. The former chair of the SEC, along with Andrew Ceresney, the former Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement are representing Ripple’s case in what is clearly an example of a company employing the services of the best legal team money can buy.
The Bitcoin community’s contention with Ripple seeking the services of these high profile celebrities and professionals stems from the way their XRP token was created, and how it is now being spent to acquire these endorsements and services. Ripple’s XRP token was conceived out of thin air and then offloaded onto the public, although Ripple still owns around 60 billion of the 100 billion tokens created. The issue is that Ripple essentially printed their own digital money, and is using some of their self created digital wealth to market their products as well as to fight an uphill legal battle in US courts.
At the height of the cryptocurrency bubble last year, the XRP token traded for ten times its current price, making Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of Ripple, the richest person in the world on paper. This is what a ‘licence’ to coin your own money is capable of doing. Printing digital tokens out of thin air allows for the hiring of popular celebrities and credible politicians, as well as engaging the services of top attorneys who were once the head regulators that oversee your business.
Similar to Ripple’s XRP token, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are created in much the same way. Most, if not all ICO tokens are manufactured out of thin air. Assuming that unqualified investors buy into the hype of an ICO and give it a monetary value, the ICO creators are essentially printing their own money which can be spent on real world goods and services.
In comparison, Bitcoin has no marketing department. It has no press events, celebrity endorsements, fancy cocktail parties or conferences. Bitcoin is a completely decentralised asset with no leader, no headquarters and no PR team. Bitcoins are created using an extremely energy intensive process called mining. Most ICOs and Ripple, on the other hand, are centralised companies issuing tokens which may eventually be ruled by financial regulators as unlicensed, unregistered securities.
Bitcoin relies on its utility and usefulness to grow organically. Meanwhile, Ripple’s selection of President Clinton as the keynote speaker at its upcoming conference is just the latest example of a centralised coin’s attempt to boost its legitimacy by using a well known personality rather than on the merits of the technology.