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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Brainard discusses central bank digital currency at House hearing

Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Digital Assets Cryptocurrency Federal Reserve Bank Regulatory CBDC Fintech

Federal Issues

On May 25, Fed Governor Lael Brainard spoke before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in a virtual hearing titled “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: Examining the Benefits and Risks of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency.” According to the Committee’s memorandum regarding the hearing, the Fed defines a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as a “digital liability of a central bank that is widely available to the general public,” and though definitions vary, “understanding what distinguishes cryptocurrency from fiat government-issued currency is fundamental.” The memorandum also discussed the Fed’s publication of a discussion paper in January, Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation, which calls for public comments on questions related to the possibility of a U.S. CBDC (covered by InfoBytes here). In Brainard’s prepared statement, she noted that the “rapid ongoing evolution” of digital assets “should lead us to frame the question not as to whether there is a need for a central bank-issued digital dollar today, but rather whether there may be conditions in the future that may give rise to such a need.” Brainard also stated that “there are risks of not acting, just as there are risks of acting.” While there has not been a decision on creating a U.S. CBDC, Brainard stated that “it is important to undertake the necessary work to inform any such decision and to be ready to move forward should the need arise.” Additionally, Brainard pointed to recent pressure on two widely used stablecoins and resulting market turmoil that “underscore the need for clear regulatory guardrails to provide consumer and investor protection, protect financial stability, and ensure a level playing field for competition and innovation across the financial system.” Brainard further stated that a U.S. CBDC could be a potential “way to ensure that people around the world who use the dollar can continue to rely on the strength and safety of the U.S. currency to transact and conduct business in the digital financial system.”

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