Federal Reserve, top bank regulators flag ‘significant’ worries over crypto assets
The Federal Reserve, FDIC, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a joint statement on Tuesday warning about “significant” risks crypto assets may pose to the broader banking system.
“It is important that risks related to the crypto-asset sector that cannot be mitigated or controlled do not migrate to the banking system,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
“Given the significant risks highlighted by recent failures of several large crypto-asset companies, the agencies continue to take a careful and cautious approach related to current or proposed crypto-asset-related activities and exposures at each banking organization.”
Regulators are warning banks about a long laundry list of risks when it comes to crypto, including fraud, volatility, poor risk management, and contagion within the crypto sector.
The agencies also flagged legal uncertainties when it comes to redemptions, ownership rights, and custody practices for crypto assets.
Tuesday’s statement came just minutes before Sam Bankman-Fried, co-founder and former CEO of failed crypto exchange FTX, pleaded not guilty on eight counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy.
Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison for his alleged role in the highest-profile crypto collapse to date.
‘Inconsistent with safe and sound banking practices’
While regulators are still studying whether or how banks could incorporate crypto into their operations in a safe way that protects consumers, the trifecta of regulators say issuing or holding crypto that’s issued, stored or transferred on an open, public or decentralized network is “inconsistent” with safe and sound banking practices.
“Based on the agencies’ current understanding and experience to date, the agencies believe that issuing or holding as principal crypto-assets that are issued, stored, or transferred on an open, public, and/or decentralized network, or similar system is highly likely to be inconsistent with safe and sound banking practices,” the statement read.
“Further, the agencies have significant safety and soundness concerns with business models that are concentrated in crypto-asset-related activities or have concentrated exposures to the crypto-asset sector.”
The agencies are overseeing banks that may be exposed to risks from the crypto sector and reviewing any proposals from banks to engage in crypto activities.
The OCC has put in place rules where banks must ask permission to be able to engage in any crypto activities. Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Michael Hsu, has compared crypto to derivatives in the early 2000’s, warning about the risk of contagion with crypto and saying the industry’s growth has been driven by hype.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council is watching cryptocurrency markets closely, but has yet to deem crypto activities as systemic.
A few bills have been proposed in Congress to regulate crypto, though it will take time for the legislation to make its way over the finish line.
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