Monday evening, the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced to allow national banks to run independent nodes for distributed ledger networks.
When it comes to independent node verification networks, the OCC's interpretive letter notes banks "may use new technologies, including INVNs and related stablecoins, to perform bank-permissible functions, such as payment activities."
The OCC's announcement is big news due to a great deal of uncertainty as to the future of stablecoins. Nevertheless, the office cautions that there are cyber risks inherent to using such technology:
"Banks must also be aware of potential risks when conducting INVN-related activities, including operational risks, compliance risk, and fraud. New technologies require enough technological expertise to ensure banks can manage these risks in a safe and sound manner."
Brian Brooks, the former leader of Coinbase's legal team, has been the Acting Comptroller of the Currency since May. In his tenure, the office has put out a host of guidance authorizing banks to be more active in crypto and, more recently, prohibiting them from cutting off services to legal industries.
The Blockchain Association, the major lobbyist group, pointed out that "The letter states that blockchains have the same status as other global financial networks, such as SWIFT, ACH, and FedWire." In recent years, such flagship mechanisms of international payments have had to up their games in response to competition from blockchain-backed payment.
The new guidance follows up on a separate group of regulators laying out new guidance for stablecoin operators immediately prior to Christmas.
Over the past month, the subject of stablecoin legal status in the U.S. has taken on an outsized role, especially after Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib introduced a bill that appeared to outlaw any operation of a stablecoin network, such as private persons running like Ethereum nodes that process DAI transactions.