US banking regulators plan to publish crypto guidance throughout 2022

Federal bank regulators in the United States issued a statement Tuesday summarizing the results of their inter-agency sprint towards clearer crypto regulations.

The regulators, comprised of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, have identified "a number of areas" they feel need to be publicly clarified, according to their joint statement. The stated plan is to issue additional communications on this front throughout 2022. 

Today's statement does not seek to alter any existing rules or regulations. The agency's work focused on bolstering internal understanding and defining the regulatory parameters for each agency in the context of crypto activities.  

Michael Hsu, acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), had called for the so-called policy sprint in May. The effort saw the OCC, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC collaborate on what they intend to be a united approach to crypto. At the start of this month, Hsu announced that all offices involved had concluded their collective review and the industry could expect communications on crypto standards in the coming weeks. 

Hsu has frequently called for government agencies to work collaboratively when it comes to crypto, arguing that agencies need to clarify where crypto activities fit into their own regulatory mandate and how they plan to work with other agencies to protect consumers. 

To this end, the sprint saw the federal bank regulatory agencies develop a common and consistent set of terms for crypto activities, discern key risks and analyze how existing guidance and regulations can apply to crypto.

The topics that guided the review included: crypto asset custody; facilitation of buying and selling crypto; crypto-collateralized loans; payments, especially those involving stablecoins; and putting crypto on a banking organization's balance sheet. The review also focused on bank capital and liquidity standards for crypto, consulting with the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. However, this appears to be an ongoing process.

Clarifications will be issued in the coming year, according to the agencies:

"Throughout 2022, the agencies plan to provide greater clarity on whether certain activities related to crypto-assets conducted by banking organizations are legally permissible, and expectations for safety and soundness, consumer protection, and compliance with existing laws and regulations related to:

  • Crypto-asset safekeeping and traditional custody services.
  • Ancillary custody services.
  • Facilitation of customer purchases and sales of crypto-assets.
  • Loans collateralized by crypto-assets.
  • Issuance and distribution of stablecoins.
  • Activities involving the holding of crypto-assets on balance sheet."

This story is developing and will be updated with additional information.