OCC turn: U.S. banks can manage stablecoin nodes and networks

The latest regulatory news from the Treasury Bureau sends a clear signal to domestic banks: they need not fear stablecoins

On Monday evening, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of the U.S. Treasury officially declared that national banks are allowed to operate independent nodes for distributed ledger networks.

The OCC’s interpretive letter says banks „may use new technologies, including INVNs [Independent Node Verification Networks] and related stablecoins, to perform the functions permitted to banks, such as payment activities.“

In the face of considerable uncertainty about the future of stablecoins, the OCC’s announcement is great news. The bureau, however, warns that there are cyber risks inherent in the use of such technology:

„Banks must also be aware of the potential risks associated with conducting INVN-related activities, including operational, compliance, and fraud risks. New technologies require sufficient technological expertise to ensure that banks can manage these risks in a safe and sound manner.“

Brian Brooks, who previously led Coinbase’s legal team, has been the acting Comptroller of the Currency Bitcoin Superstar since May. During his tenure, the office has issued a series of directives authorizing banks to be more active in the crypto market and, more recently, preventing them from cutting services to businesses legally allowed to operate, including crypto businesses.

The industry’s main lobby, the Blockchain Association, pointed out:

„The letter states that blockchains have the same status as other global financial networks, such as SWIFT, ACH and FedWire.“

Those international payment mechanisms have faced stiff competition from blockchain payments in recent years.

The new guidelines follow up on what another group of regulators did just before Christmas, which set guidelines for stablecoin operators.

The topic of the legal status of stablecoins in the U.S. has taken center stage over the past month, especially after Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib introduced a bill that appeared to ban any operation conducted with stablecoins, including individuals who operate, for example, Ethereum nodes that process DAI transactions.