US Bank Regulator OCC Asks for Public Input on Cryptocurrency Use in Financial Sector

US Bank Regulator OCC Asks for Public Input on Cryptocurrency Use in Financial Sector

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks asked for public input into how distributed ledgers might be used for banking services. (Credit: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock)

One of the federal bank regulators in the U.S., and the only one that charters national banks, is seeking public input on how it regulates new technologies and digital banking activities, including cryptocurrencies and blockchain tools.

In an published Thursday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) said it was reviewing its regulations around digital bank activities to ensure that these regulations “continue to evolve with developments in the industry.”

The notice, published Thursday, was signed by Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks, the former chief legal officer of Coinbase last week. 

In an emailed statement, OCC spokesperson Bryan Hubbard said:

The notice specifically asked what sort of cryptocurrency-related activities banks and other financial institutions are currently engaged in, and what activities customers engage in that impact banks.

It also asked: 

Separately from crypto assets specifically, the notice asked about the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in banking activities and – as with the crypto-related activities section – asked if there are any specific issues that need to be clarified.

“What new payments technologies and processes should the OCC be aware of and what are the potential implications of these technologies and processes for the banking industry? How are new payments technologies and processes facilitated or hindered by existing regulatory frameworks?” the filing said.

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The notice also briefly addressed Brooks’ suggestion that his office could issue for cryptocurrency exchanges, which would essentially allow it to bypass the state-by-state framework that right now requires companies to secure 50 money services business (MSB) registrations to operate nationwide.

“The OCC is not seeking comment on its authority to issue a special purpose national bank charter,” it said.

In a statement, Blockchain Association executive director Kristin Smith said, “It’s heartening to see a top banking regulator understand the power of cryptocurrency. The notice today indicates that Acting Comptroller Brooks is serious about modernizing banking regulations so that innovators can bring new solutions to the legacy financial system.”

Individuals interested in providing public comment can , mail, hand-deliver, fax or .

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