Federally chartered banks in the U.S. can now operate nodes and use stablecoins, according to a letter published by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a bureau within the U.S. Treasury department, on Monday.
Specifically, the letter explains that banks may "connect to blockchains as validator nodes and thereby transact stablecoin payments on behalf of customers who are increasingly demanding the speed, efficiency, interoperability, and low cost associated with these products."
The OCC writes it hopes that the utilization of stablecoins will increase the efficiency and stability of transactions, citing the "decentralized nature" of what it describes as "independent node verification networks" (INVN) and referencing the resilience of such networks due to their consensus mechanisms.
As node operators, banks would not escape their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act, however, that will still required entities operating a node to "ensure compliance with the reporting and recordkeeping requirements" of said Act and "address the particular risks of cryptocurrency transactions." This includes "guard[ing] against potential money laundering activities and terrorist financing."
No specific networks, nor specific stablecoins were named in the letter.
Previously, the U.S. had primarily focused on its research surrounding a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the country. While no particular design details have been determined as of yet, it appears the OCC's letter would not apply to a hypothetical CBDC, seeing as such a system would most likely not be decentralized.
Meanwhile, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is scheduled to close comment period on a proposed rule involving strengthened Know-Your-Customer and anti money laundering requirements for non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets. The proposal had made waves in the industry when it was first released and has been met with widespread criticism, not least due to the unusually short comment period of 15 days that, in addition, began right before the holidays.