U.S. regulator seeks public input as it reviews crypto, DLT activities in the banking sector

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) — which regulates banks in the U.S. — is seeking feedback from the public on the digital activities of national banks and federal savings associations, which includes actions related to cryptocurrencies and digital assets.

The OCC published two notices on Thursday, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which cover a range of topics related to its remit as a regulator of U.S. banks. It's the second of two notices that focus on digital activities and hone in on the topic of crypto.

In a statement published alongside the notices, the OCC said that the digital activities notice "is part of the agency’s effort to support the evolution of the federal banking system and its ability to meet the needs of the consumers, businesses, and communities it serves." The OCC also said that "[c]omments received on this ANPR may inform the development of specific policy proposals or future rulemakings."

The notice poses the following questions:


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"What types of activities related to cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets are financial services companies or bank customers engaged? To what extent does customer engagement in crypto-related activities impact banks and the banking industry? What are the barriers or obstacles, if any, to further adoption of crypto-related activities in the banking industry? Are there specific activities that should be addressed in regulatory guidance, including regulations?"

In a subsequent section, the notice hones in on distributed ledger tech, which in some cases are software applications similar to or inspired by cryptocurrencies, asking:

"How is distributed ledger technology used, or potentially used, in banking activities (e.g., identity verification, credit underwriting or monitoring, payments processing, trade finance, and records management)? Are there specific matters on this topic that should be clarified in regulatory guidance, including regulations?"

Other areas of inquiry focus on artificial intelligence, next-generation payment systems and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The OCC has set a deadline of August 3 for the receipt of public comments. The OCC is currently led by Brian Brooks, a former chief legal officer for crypto exchange Coinbase, on an interim basis.