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Ex-FDIC Regulator On Trust And the Battle of the Social Media Videos

Ex-FDIC Regulator On Trust And the Battle of the Social Media Videos

Sep 29, 2020

When Jason Brett first arrived at the FDIC, he was greeted with the joke that he should have brought a pillow to work at the sleepy agency. Little did he know that, within a week in that summer of 2008, he would have a front-row seat to what was the largest bank collapse in U.S. history. The  Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took over IndyMac Bank and Jason learned then that the banking deposit system depended simply on trust.

"We live in this fractionalized reserve banking system and one of the stakes that was very high at the FDIC was securing the public's confidence, making sure the public was confident knowing that their money was backed by the FDIC," Jason said on the latest episode of Follow the White Rabbit podcast.

Jason recounted how initially only senior citizens -- seared with memories of the impact from the Great Depression -- immediately took all of their deposits out of the California bank. But younger customers seemed comfortable at first with keeping their money with the bank ... until people started posting YouTube videos of long lines of depositors outside branches. That sparked a shift where suddenly people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s joined a run on the bank

"We quickly realized that we were facing the first social media banking crisis," Jason said.

That launched a public awareness and public relations campaign by the FDIC with the agency's head Sheila Bair organizing an alternative narrative with YouTube videos designed to reassure depositors their money was safe at the bank.

The experience as an intern and junior analyst propelled Jason's thinking and exploration about the concept of money and ultimately fuelled his understanding of the significance in the world of cryptocurrency.

"We really learned that people did not trust banks outright after 2008, and that change has raised the stakes, highlighting the leverage that money and power has over people," he said.

Since those FDIC days, Jason has been the compliance examiner for the Making Home Affordable Program (HAMP) with the Treasury, and, active in bitcoin and blockchain since 2016, he is now the CEO of Value Technology, a D.C. think tank focused on blockchain advocacy, education, research and application.

Cryptocurrency has forced people around the globe to consider the concepts of money, Jason said. In September, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency even acknowledged that the U.S. dollar has no intrinsic value. That, according to Jason, is "screaming heresy" for a regulator.

"We have all recognized that cryptocurrency has a place in society and we need to take advantage of the education opportunities that are going to open up. Otherwise people will make investment decisions that are harmful to them," he said.

"We owe it to ourselves as a community to do something like this or I think the government will make us do something like this five or ten years down the road," he warned.

To hear more, follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Feb 22, 2021
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