New Head of US Regulator and Former Coinbase Lawyer Invites Banks and Crypto to Collaborate

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Following a request for input on how crypto and banking can work together, new acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks talks first priorities in work with the industry.

In a June 4 announcement, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is looking for banks and crypto firms to weigh in on how the two can interact. 

Crypto meets banks

The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asks banks and industry leaders to respond to a number of questions — notably:

“What activities related to cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets are financial services companies or bank customers engaged in and what are the barriers or obstacles to further adoption of crypto-related activities in the banking industry?”

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks described today’s announcement as looking to bridge the gap between finance and crypto. He anticipated the office learning: 

“Ways the cryptocurrency regime needs banking services, ways that they need to transact across the bank rails, etc. So we have affirmatively come out and said, give us information about what crypto needs from banking and banking needs from crypto, because we want to really do something in that space.”

Crypto vet Brooks’ first week at the head of the office

The OCC is the major banking regulator within the United States Treasury. The recent announcement comes as part of a flurry of activity since Brooks took the reins at the office at the beginning of this week. 

In March, Brooks joined the OCC from Coinbase, where he served as chief legal officer, which may explain the interest in crypto. Looking ahead, he told Cointelegraph that figuring out the role of banks as custodians and where stablecoins fit in are critical goals going into his term:

“The OCC, quickly under my watch, will get a position together as to what do we think about national banks as appropriate custodians for cryptocurrency. We don’t have a view on that and I don’t want to prejudge that but it is certainly an interest of mine from my past life that we need to come to ground on that. And then there’s the question of what do we think about stablecoins? Are stable coins equivalent to currency or are the cash equivalents? Can they be held by banks in an awesome format or if they’re held outside of a bank? Is that covered by banking regulations?”

Treasury and crypto

Regulators in the U.S. and abroad have been increasingly looking at crypto. Many have interpreted Brooks’ hiring at the OCC as evidence of greater interest in onboarding crypto capabilities into the federal government’s arsenal. Just in March, weeks before that hiring, the Treasury held a meeting with leaders in the crypto industry to learn more.