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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Hsu is self-described “crypto skeptic”

Bank Regulatory Fedral Issues Digital Assets OCC Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Cryptocurrency Fintech

On May 24, acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu delivered remarks before the 2022 DC Blockchain Summit focusing on the vulnerabilities in the cryptocurrency framework and recent volatility with stablecoins. In his remarks, Hsu described that he has “been a crypto skeptic,” and that it has become clear to him that the crypto economy depends on “hype” to “generate the interest and investment that are key to creating the ‘flywheel’ of growth that crypto projects seem to need to get off the ground.” In his speech, he discussed his three high level observations surrounding recent events from the perspective of a bank regulator. First, Hsu described “deep vulnerabilities in the crypto system,” noting that “[c]rypto is highly fragmented and prone to hacks,” and that “[c]ontagion risks are real.” He also argued that ownership rights are underdeveloped for the size, scope, and ambitions of the industry, explaining that “[f]or a technology and industry so focused on promoting an ‘ownership society,’ the lack of clarity on ownership rights, modes of ownership, and custody of digital assets seems like a fundamental problem that needs to be solved.” Second, Hsu observed that “recent events have shown the value of the OCC’s ‘careful and cautious’ approach to banks seeking to engage in crypto activities.” Hsu explained that there has been no contagion from cryptocurrencies to traditional banking and finance, stating that “[n]o banks are under stress or even rumored to be under stress due to crypto exposure.” Lastly, he warned “that hype is not harmless.” Hsu noted that a hype-driven economy has challenges for individuals interested in truly productive innovation and in protecting consumers. He recognized the possibility “for positive and transformative change with digital assets,” but warned that “the hype and the associated vulnerabilities noted above make the crypto space very dangerous for investors of modest means.” Hsu stated that while he remains a “a crypto skeptic,” he sees “its potential and understand[s] why there is excitement around it.” He also stated that the agency “will continue to take a careful and cautious approach to crypto in order to ensure that the national banking system is safe, sound, and fair.”

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