Federal regulators want to slap bank-like rules on stablecoins

Federal regulators want to slap bank-like rules on stablecoins
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Regulators have long been circling cryptocurrencies. Now they have a new target: stablecoins.

A Monday report from the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency urged Congress to slap bank-like rules on the assets.

The selling point of stablecoins is in the name: their value is meant to fluctuate less than other digital currencies because they are pegged to a real-world asset — in many cases, the US dollar.

But even with this connection to fiat currencies or commodities, regulators believe the risk of stablecoins not actually being stable, hurting investors and undermining financial security is still too high, according to a press release from the Treasury Department.

This is a significant move as stablecoin issuers and providers have been called out by regulators before. For example, Tether, the largest issuer of the assets, attracted criticism from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which asserted that the company didn’t fully back their stablecoins with US dollars for nearly four years, meaning they did not have enough dollars on hand to pay back every investor who potentially might cash out their Tether stablecoins.

“The rapid growth of stablecoins as an innovative and unregulated means to engage in speculative digital asset trading, lending and borrowing is in equal measures awe-inspiring and unsettling,” said acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu in a statement.

The regulatory recommendations include requiring stablecoin issuers to be FDIC-insured in case of losses, just like banks. Stablecoin issuers should also be restricted in terms of their commercial affiliation with other companies, to address any concerns about a concentration of wealth and influence.

On top of that, the legislation should require any custodial wallet providers to be subject to federal supervision as well to ensure appropriate risk-management standards.

The industry was quick to respond.

“We are fully supportive of the call for Congress to act and establish Federal banking supervision for stablecoin issuance,” said Jeremy Allaire, co-founder and CEO of payments platform and stablecoin operator Circle, in a statement.

“The rapid scaling and strategic importance of this to dollar competitiveness in the age of crypto and blockchains is critical” Allaire added. “This is huge progress in the acceptance of stablecoins and provides a path for their adoption as fundamental infrastructure for financial and economic activity in the coming decade.”

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