A recent supervisory communication from the Federal Reserve concerning the utilisation of dollar tokens, like stablecoins, for facilitating payments by state member banks, has ignited controversy among members of Congress on Monday, August 28th.
The Federal Reserve recently issued a set of guidelines for state member banks, stipulating the necessity of obtaining written supervisory nonobjection from the Federal Reserve prior to engaging in issuance, possession, or transactions involving dollar tokens, as conveyed in an official press release by the agency.
The intent behind this requirement is to ensure that banks implement effective risk management practices, which include establishing systems to detect and monitor potential risks, such as those related to cybersecurity threats and illicit financial activities. State member banks that partake in activities associated with dollar tokens will also be subject to ongoing supervisory assessment and heightened observation.
In addition to this, the Federal Reserve has introduced the Novel Activities Supervision Program designed to oversee unconventional activities conducted by banking institutions. This program encompasses areas like crypto-assets, distributed ledger technology (DLT), and tech-driven collaborations with nonbank entities to deliver financial services. Its purpose is to complement existing supervisory procedures and enhance the oversight of technology-oriented activities.
The agency stated, “The primary aim of the novel activities supervision program is to promote the advantages of financial innovation while concurrently acknowledging and effectively addressing potential risks to ensure the stability and security of the banking system. This program will be seamlessly integrated into the Federal Reserve’s prevailing supervisory procedures, with program experts collaborating alongside existing supervisory teams to monitor banks participating in novel activities.”
However, on Monday, legislators expressed criticism regarding both of these moves, asserting that the Federal Reserve’s actions were hindering the congressional endeavors to establish regulations for stablecoins.
In a joint letter directed to Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Representatives Patrick McHenry, French Hill, and Bill Huizenga, all from the Republican party, conveyed their disapproval of the Federal Reserve’s actions. McHenry chairs the House Financial Services Committee, Hill holds the vice chair position, and Huizenga is the chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
The letter read, “We are troubled by the perception that these measures are being adopted to circumvent the strides made by Congress in developing a regulatory framework for payment stablecoins. Furthermore, should these requirements persist, they are likely to discourage financial institutions from participating in the digital asset ecosystem. Congress recognises the significance of providing a stable regulatory environment for payment stablecoins as well as the broader digital asset landscape. A regulatory structure put forth by Congress will provide better safeguards for consumers and offer clarity to market participants.”
The letters issued by the Federal Reserve are a response to the escalating interest and involvement of banks in stablecoins and other cryptocurrency-related activities, following significant collapses in both the banking and crypto sectors within the past year.
In a related development, the launch of a stablecoin by PayPal has raised concerns among lawmakers. Maxine Waters, a leading Democratic Representative on the House Financial Services Committee, expressed deep reservations about PayPal’s decision to introduce a stablecoin. Waters emphasized the necessity of federal supervision and enforcement to ensure the protection of consumers and alleviate worries regarding financial stability.
The divergent perspectives on stablecoins within the House Financial Services Committee highlight the ongoing debate surrounding the regulation of cryptocurrencies and the necessity for a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital assets. While some legislators perceive stablecoins as a promising aspect of the contemporary payment system, others underline the significance of clear regulations and robust consumer safeguards. The establishment of regulations for stablecoins is a critical step toward striking a balance between encouraging innovation and upholding financial stability.