Friday, November 27, 2020

OCC is too caught up in crypto under former Coinbase exec, congresspeople say

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Brian Brooks, the former Coinbase executive turned leader of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or OCC, recently received a letter from multiple members of Congress expressing concerns over his crypto-heavy leadership.

The letter, from Stephen Lynch and Rashida Tlaib, two congresspeople for Massachusetts and Michigan respectively, also holds signatures from Jesús García, Deb Haaland, Barbara Lee and Ayanna Pressley — representatives from Illinois, New Mexico, California and Massachusetts. 

The letter references the OCC’s “recent unilateral actions in the digital financial activities space, including interpretive letters on cryptocurrency custody, stablecoins, and its announced plans to start offering special purpose ‘payments’ charters,” a media statement from Tlaib said yesterday. 

The crypto industry has seen a number of key regulatory clarity decisions in 2020, in part thanks to the OCC under Brooks. In July, federally chartered banks received regulatory approval for crypto custody, while September ushered in approval for stablecoin reserve custody by such banks.

“Given the limited statutory authority of the OCC, we urge the Comptroller to seriously reconsider the implications of a unilateral approach and instead invite the OCC to collaborate with other regulators and Congress on these issues,” the letter reads. 

The OCC’s clarity from September hurts innovation while facilitating “a new class of institutions that benefits large, established fintech firms,” the statement said. Giving big tech firms like Facebook the go-ahead to enter the payments arena also raises red flags with the legislators. 

In part, the letter posits that the OCC put fintech and crypto regulatory developments ahead of other more pressing issues, such as providing citizens stimulus check access. The letter listed a plethora of questions for the OCC, citing a due date of Dec. 10 for a response. 

Regulators across the board have increased their involvement in the crypto space this year concerning criminal charges and clarity. 

Cointelegraph reached out to Brian Brooks’ press team for additional details, but received no response as of the time of publication. This article will be updated accordingly should a response come in.