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US federal regulator says US banks can use public blockchains and stablecoins

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced on Monday that federally regulated banks can use stablecoins to conduct payments and other activities.

According to Coindesk, the federal banking regulator published an interpretive letter addressing whether national banks and federal savings associations could participate in independent node verification networks (INVNs, otherwise known as blockchain networks) or use stablecoins. The letter stated that these financial institutions can participate as nodes on a blockchain and store or validate payments. 

OCC press release warned that any banks that do participate in an INVN must be aware of the operational, compliance or fraud risks when doing so.

However, the OCC said INVNs “may be more resilient than other payment networks” due to the large number of nodes needed to verify transactions, which can in turn limit tampering.

The executive director of the Blockchain Association, Kristin Smith said on Twitter that “the letter states that blockchains have the same status as other global financial networks, such as SWIFT, ACH, and FedWire.”

The Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Brian Brooks said in a statement that while other nations have built real-time payments systems, the U.S. “has relied on” the private sector to create such technologies, seemingly endorsing the use of cryptocurrencies – particularly stablecoins – as an alternative to other real-time payment systems.

Monday’s interpretive letter also comes on the same day as a public comment period for a proposed Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) rule closes. The controversial rule only had a 15-day comment period, and has allegedly been spearheaded by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who appointed Brooks to the OCC in early 2020.

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