On October 15, 2021, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the federal regulator of all national banks and federal thrifts, issued its Bank Supervision Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2022, which began October 1, 2021. For the first time, “fintech partnerships for potential cryptocurrency-related activities and other services” are on its short list of top priorities. In fact, despite the OCC introducing a “fintech charter” for crypto custody services in 2021 and creating a new division in 2017, “The Office of Innovation,” whose head reports directly to the Comptroller, the OCC has never included anything related to “crypto” or digital assets in its annual Bank Supervision Operating Plan. This OCC declaration is in keeping with the trend set by other regulators, including the DOJ in its recent announcement, and may be a response to the recent heightened interest in the sector by investors such as Steve Cohen and Ray Dalio.
According to the Operating Plan, this year OCC bank examiners should, “identify banks that are implementing significant changes in their operations using new technological innovations and evaluate implementation, including use of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and digitalization in the risk management processes,” and should “evaluate the appropriateness of governance processes when banks undertake significant changes.” Other major priorities stated in the FY 2022 Plan include: cybersecurity, LIBOR, interest-rate risk, BSA, consumer compliance, and the climate.
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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.