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Cracking the Crypto Code: Unraveling the Complexities of Digital Finance with Amanda Wick [PODCAST]

On this episode of Crypto Bits, host Seth DuCharme is joined by Amanda Wick, founder and CEO of the Association for Women in Cryptocurrency. Amanda explores cryptocurrency value, the advantage of blockchain technology's advantages, and the importance of efficiency, competition and compliance. Amanda envisions a crypto future driven by inclusivity, constructive regulatory dialogue and innovation. She also highlights the unique value of NFTs as verifiable, authentic digital assets with intrinsic worth.

When you get into crypto, what are the analogies that make sense and what are the analogies that don't make sense?

The skill set that is most needed in crypto right now is the ability to explain by analogy so that people can understand it. I have conversation after conversation with people where I say, if you could explain this to people in a way that they get it right, that is so critical. And to your point a moment ago, there are positive use cases to crypto.

For example, I used to do white-collar money laundering cases with traditional finance and cash. I didn't have to explain how cash worked because obviously people had cash in their pockets. All of those people had cash and weren't necessarily criminals. There's nothing inherently criminal about a technology or about a financial service. There are people who then use it in a criminal way, and we must be able to separate and make that distinction.

When you're talking about crypto currency as a technology, as a means of money movement, and then the people who decide to use that, just like the Internet, the Internet is not inherently illegal. There are people who do illegal things on the Internet, but we're not going to ban the Internet because people do horrible things on it.

Can you just talk a little bit about your origin story and what you're doing now?

About five years out of law school, I started as a federal prosecutor in the Atlanta US attorney's office, and I spent a year there and then went to the US attorney's office in Birmingham, Alabama. I was lucky that I got to run a financial crime task force there that looked at money laundering cases, and that's where I caught my first crypto case. I moved to the US attorney's office in St. Louis, and I was the asset forfeiture coordinator there and got to work narcotics cases and wiretap cases.

So through a very strange set of circumstances, I have an abnormally broad range of case experience. Most prosecutors have to specialize, and I was really blessed that I was able to be a generalist in a world of specialists. And after that I moved to Main Justice, and I worked for the money laundering and asset recovery section, which is the section at Main Justice that actually looks at both money launderers, if you have crypto money launder, and also financial institutions, which would include crypto exchanges, so the bank integrity unit would also look at the crypto exchanges and whether they're meeting their Bank Secrecy Act obligations. Then I left in 2020 and went to The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is a bureau in the Department of Treasury that obviously regulates many services businesses. Then I left FinCEN to go to a company called Chainalysis, which is probably one of the leading, if not the leading, blockchain analytics company. They provide data and government investigative services, tons of information and trainings online. I left somewhat unexpectedly to work on the Hill for a year, and then after that I launched a nonprofit association called the Association for Women in Cryptocurrency, which is a passion project that I've wanted to do for two years. We launched in October and now have over 125 members around the world, and it's a group of women and male allies who both want to build a global professional network but want to advocate for greater inclusion of women in the future of digital finance.

If you're a sophisticated crypto player and you look at the landscape right now, what's your level of confidence that if you apply enough energy and focus to this venture by continuing to embrace cryptocurrencies as a valid form of payment, that it isn’t going away?

I will say I remain cautiously optimistic. And the reason for that is because I think there are three things that need to happen. The first is, we still have a culture in crypto, Web3 and blockchain that is exclusionary the way that traditional finance is. There's a lot of white dudes running around in crypto making the decisions and thinking they're building the industry and they're not being inclusive and thinking about who's in the room when that discussion happens.

The second problem is that right now, in the last decade, crypto and blockchain have had a problem in how they communicate with regulators. The regulators have created things like innovation hours. They've tried to encourage industry to come in. And a lot of times, this is where I'm putting on my old government/regulator hat, when the industry came in, it was, let me sell you something or let me tell you something.

And the third thing is that the US government is reactionary, it's not proactive, and we tend to wait for a crisis like 9/11 to then put into place the things that we need. And the problem with that is, if what we are in fact going through is the fall of an empire and the actual decline in the power of the US dollar, you cannot wait for that to happen because the whole purpose of the canary in the coal mine is to say, carbon monoxide levels are rising. And when the canary sings, you're supposed to do something about it proactively, because if you wait until the canary is dead, guess who's left in the coal mine?

© 2023 Bracewell LLPNational Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 81

About this Author

Seth DuCharme Insurance Lawyer Bracewell LLP

Seth DuCharme draws on his 14 years of experience as a senior-level law enforcement officer to advise companies and individuals on cases involving cybersecurity and breach response, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) diligence and litigation, export controls, sanctions compliance and anti-money laundering.

Seth served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York from 2008 through 2021. He held various positions at the Eastern District, including Chief of the Criminal Division, Chief of the National Security & Cybercrime Section, and Acting United...