On January 13, 2021, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) conditionally approved a national bank charter for Anchorage Digital Bank NA, paving the way for the first national crypto bank. It was only last summer that the OCC announced that national banks could custody digital assets. At that time, Anchorage Trust Co. was offering digital asset custody services in several states under state-based regulation. After meeting several conditions to approval outlined by the OCC, Anchorage will be able to operate nationwide under the oversight of a single regulator. OCC oversight can be onerous, however, with strict capital, liquidity, and risk management requirements. Bitcoin was up more than 10% on the news.
The landmark news for Anchorage came the same day that Brian Brooks, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency, announced he was stepping down. In only eight months running the OCC, Brooks was instrumental in pushing the federal regulator to be more of a facilitator in the crypto space. The decision to permit national banks to custody digital assets came soon after he took over. And as one of his last acts, the agency recognized that national banks can use stablecoins and distributed ledgers to conduct payment activities.
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Blockchain technology utilizes a distributed digital ledger to record and track information, and can be leveraged to gain transparency and certainty in transactions ranging from cryptocurrency to supply chain tracking. This blog provides information on the legal developments surrounding implementation of blockchain technology, with an initial focus on the financial services sector.