Blockchain Association Responds to OCC Request for Information

The Blockchain Association submitted a comment letter in response to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) advanced notice of proposed rulemaking regarding national bank and federal savings association digital activities. The Association welcomes the OCC’s focus on ensuring the federal banking system continues to serve its customers effectively and remains responsive to innovation.

As the OCC notes, the business of banking is not static. The National Bank Act established the federal banking system in the 1860s, well before the advent of technologies that have fundamentally changed the business of banking such as credit cards, electronic record keeping, digital payments, and mobile banking. These innovations undoubtedly have improved the efficiency of the banking system and have been of enormous utility to American citizens and commerce.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchains will drive the next major wave of innovation in financial and digital services, yet national banks generally have been reluctant to provide basic financial services to some cryptocurrency businesses due to perceived regulatory and legal risks. Moreover, no national banks or federal savings associations provide cryptocurrency services such as custody and exchange to their customers, even though over 36 million Americans owned at least one cryptocurrency in 2019.

Where banks have been reluctant to provide banking services to cryptocurrency businesses and cryptocurrency services to their customers due to regulatory ambiguity, the OCC can provide them much needed clarity. Providing such clarity adheres to the OCC’s mission and promotes the OCC’s intent “to regulate banking in ways that allow for the responsible creation or adoption of technological advances and to establish a regulatory and supervisory framework that allows banking to evolve, while ensuring that safety and soundness and the fair treatment of customers is preserved.” To that end, the Association recommends that the OCC:

  1. Issue a statement encouraging the financial institutions within its jurisdiction to adopt a risk-based approach in assessing individual relationships with cryptocurrency businesses;
  2. Explicitly permit banks to engage third-parties to provide cryptocurrency-related services, such as custody, settlement, and reconciliation;
  3. Allow banks to settle payments and accept deposits in dollar stablecoins that meet criteria defined by the OCC;
  4. Clarify that national banks and federal savings associations may offer or enter into foreign exchange transactions involving cryptocurrencies; and
  5. Create and issue a federal payments charter.

Full text of BA’s comments.