WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading U.S. banking regulator said on Wednesday that national banks may provide custody services for cryptocurrencies.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said in a new letter that providing custody and safekeeping services for cryptocurrencies, including holding “keys” needed to access cryptocurrency holdings, is a modern version of traditional banking activities and should be allowed.
“From safe-deposit boxes to virtual vaults, we must ensure banks can meet the financial services needs of their customers today,” said Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks in a statement.
The new OCC opinion provides further entry for traditional banks into the cryptocurrency business, where the rules have been murky about what is and isn’t permitted.
Prior to joining the OCC, Brooks served as the chief legal officer for Coinbase, a crypto exchange. Brooks took over as acting head of the federal agency in May.
In its opinion letter, the OCC said protecting access to cryptocurrencies falls within “longstanding authorities to engage in safekeeping and custody activities” for banks.
Banks can provide such business to customers with cryptocurrencies, so long as they ensure they are following relevant laws, including those pertaining to money laundering. The OCC said banks considering this business should discuss the matter with regulators before launching it.
Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Aurora Ellis