OCC: Banks Can Hold Some Stablecoin Reserves

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has published fresh guidance, officially clarifying national banks can provide services to stablecoin issuers in the U.S.

Stablecoin issuers have been using U.S.  banks for years, but in an unclear regulatory environment. Now, the OCC wants federally regulated banks to feel comfortable providing services to stablecoin issuers, it said in a press release. An accompanying interpretative letter, signed by Senior Deputy Comptroller Jonathan Gould, explained that while banks should conduct due diligence and ensure they assess the risks of banking any stablecoin issuers, stablecoins are becoming increasingly popular.

The letter specifies it refers to stablecoins backed on a one-to-one basis by fiat currencies.

“National banks and federal savings associations currently engage in stablecoin related activities involving billions of dollars each day. This opinion provides greater regulatory certainty for banks within the federal banking system to provide those client services in a safe and sound manner,” Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks said in a statement.

Jeremy Allaire, CEO of CENTRE member Circle, told CoinDesk in March that at present, USDC issuers have to onboard with reserve banks, with each member holding an account at these banks. 

“I can’t speak on behalf of other stablecoins but at CENTRE we’ve seen really robust demand from significant banking institutions to get involved in reserve banking stablecoin clients,” he said at the time.

The OCC detailed how banks should handle stablecoin reserves, specifically referring to stablecoins backed by currencies like the dollar. 

The OCC has taken a number of steps to integrate the crypto space with the existing financial system under Brooks, who is Coinbase’s former general counsel. In recent months, the OCC has told banks they can provide services to crypto startups and floated a national payment charter for exchanges and other fintech firms.

According to the letter, stablecoin issuers can point to the fact that regulated banks hold their reserves to convince the general public that they are safe.

The letter specifies that the OCC’s guidance only refers to stablecoins held in hosted wallets, meaning wallets controlled by a trusted third party. Unhosted wallets, which are controlled by the individual user who owns the cryptos being stored, are not included in Monday’s announcement. 

“The due diligence process should facilitate an understanding of the risks of cryptocurrency and include a review for compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering,” the OCC’s interpretative letter said. 

This due diligence includes Patriot Act compliance as well.

“Stablecoin reserve accounts could be structured as either deposits of the stablecoin issuer or as deposits of the individual stablecoin holder if the requirements for pass through insurance are met,” the letter explained.

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