This strange and twisting tale begins with Katie Haun, a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor. Haun, who was normally busy probing prison gangs, corrupt officials, and the mafia — was tasked with trying to shut down Bitcoin.
When that became implausible as it was ridiculous, Haun pivoted to become the first female general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the Libra Association members looking to launch Facebook’s stablecoin.
In the past ten years, Bitcoin, as an entity, has flourished in the mainstream to a point where it is no longer an enigma of the dark web but rather an institutional financial tool and asset. However, some seven years ago, when the only mentions of Bitcoin were tied to buying drugs and illicit goods, it was catching the eye of the U.S. Department of Justice for the wrong reasons.
Haun explains how, when she was a federal prosecutor, her boss at the U.S. attorney’s office asked her to look into Bitcoin, which she had never heard of before, and try shutting it down.
‘Let’s Prosecute Cash’
After a little investigation into the nature and makeup of Bitcoin, Haun quickly realized that the task set out before for her was impossible. “It would have been akin to saying “let’s go prosecute cash,” Haun said.
The former prosecutor explains how the task came across her desk just after wrapping up a biker murder trial. “They said, ‘we have this perfect assignment for you’ — there’s this thing called Bitcoin, and we need to investigate it.’ That was the first time I’d ever heard of Bitcoin,” she added.
Haun’s investigation into Bitcoin led her to realize that there was indeed criminal activity linked to the digital currency, but the currency itself was not unlawful. Just like cash, Bitcoin could enable criminal activity, but it wasn’t responsible.
In fact, she started to lean on the distributed, transparent ledger to help her fight some of these criminal activities. “The government was able to use that same technology to actually track down criminal activity it might not otherwise have been able to,” she explained. “Without the technology underlying bitcoin, we never would have been able to catch those people.”
A Bitcoin Believer
Having been tasked to try and stop this shadowy internet financial threat, and realizing that the technology was sound and surprisingly revolutionary. Haun then left behind her days of prosecution after more than a decade — but she did not leave behind her newfound expertise in the space.
Huan got a job with the Andreessen Horowitz investment firm and quickly worked her way up the ladder to co-head its $350 million cryptocurrency fund. Horowitz is now one of the key names involved in trying to get Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency off the ground in the face of harsh regulatory scrutiny.
“What we heard with Libra were the same criticisms. They were just heightened and they got more attention because of the high-profile nature of the project and the fact that Facebook was involved,” Haun said. “I think it would be a really dangerous thing, and frankly a dangerous precedent to start shutting down technology before it’s built.”
Do you think a lot of the unsavory opinions on Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency space come from a place of ignorance and misunderstanding? If Bitcoin was widely understood and normalized, would it be more commonly adopted?