US Regulator Says Banks Must Meet Certain Conditions To Deal in Cryptocurrency

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The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is outlining the conditions that national banks and federal savings associations must meet before engaging in specified cryptocurrency activities.

The regulator says that national banks and federal thrift institutions must “demonstrate that they have adequate controls in place before they can engage in certain cryptocurrency, distributed ledger and stablecoin activities.”

The OCC is also offering clarity on matters previously addressed in interpretive letters issued in 2020 and early 2021.

According to the regulator, banks can provide cryptocurrency custody services, hold dollar deposits that back stablecoins, act as nodes for distributed ledgers to verify payments and engage in particular stablecoin activities to facilitate payments on blockchain networks after notifying their supervisory office.

“Today’s letter clarifies that the activities addressed in the previous interpretive letters may be conducted after a bank notifies its supervisory office of its intent to engage in the activities and after a bank receives written notification of the supervisory office’s non-objection. The bank should not engage in the activity until it receives a non-objection from its supervisory office.”

The Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Michael J. Hsu, says that the measures outlined are to ensure financial institutions under the OCC’s regulatory ambit operate safely and responsibly.

“Because many of these technologies and products present novel risks, banks must be able to demonstrate that they have appropriate risk management systems and controls in place to conduct them safely. This will provide assurance that crypto-asset activities taking place inside of the federal regulatory perimeter are being conducted responsibly.”

Last month, a report indicated that US regulators were partnering to come up with clearer rules, such as enabling banks to facilitate crypto trading for their clients and allowing them to hold crypto assets in their balance sheets.

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