Republicans say regulators are coordinating on de-banking digital assets
On April 26, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion Subcommittee Chairman French Hill (R-AR), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) sent separate letters to the Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell, FDIC Chair Martin J. Gruenberg, and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu seeking information to help the lawmakers determine whether there exists a “coordinated strategy to de-bank the digital asset ecosystem in the United States” and “suppress innovation.”
The text common to each letter pointed to actions taken by the federal prudential regulators as discouraging banks from offering services to digital asset firms. The lawmakers cited OCC guidance issued in 2021 (Interpretive Letter 1179, covered by InfoBytes here), which stated that banks can engage in certain cryptocurrency activities as long as they are able to “demonstrate, to the satisfaction of its supervisory office, that it has controls in place to conduct the activity in a safe and sound manner” and the banks receive a regulator’s written non-objection. Also discussed were FDIC instructions released in April 2022, which directed banks to promptly notify the agency if they intend to engage in, or are currently engaged in, any digital-asset-related activities, as well as a joint statement issued by the regulators in January that highlighted key risks banks should consider when choosing to engage in cryptocurrency activities. (Covered by InfoBytes here and here.)
Referring to certain recent bank collapses, the lawmakers argued that they do not believe that the underlying problems were caused by digital asset-related customers. The lawmakers requested information related to non-public records and communications between agency employees and supervised banks relating to the aforementioned guidance by May 9.