Federal Reserve Sights Crypto Contagion Risk
January 6, 2023
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (collectively, the agencies) are issuing the following statement on crypto-asset1 risks to banking organizations.
The events of the past year have been marked by
significant volatility and the exposure of vulnerabilities in the
crypto-asset sector. These events highlight a number of key risks associated
with crypto-assets and crypto-asset sector participants that banking
organizations should be aware of, including:
• Legal uncertainties related to custody practices, redemptions, and ownership rights, some of which are currently the subject of legal processes and proceedings.
• Inaccurate or misleading representations and disclosures by crypto-asset companies, including misrepresentations regarding federal deposit insurance, and other practices that may be unfair, deceptive, or abusive, contributing to significant harm to retail and institutional investors, customers, and counterparties.
• Significant volatility in crypto-asset markets, the effects of which include potential impacts on deposit flows associated with crypto-asset companies.
• Susceptibility of stablecoins to run risk, creating potential deposit outflows for banking organizations that hold stablecoin reserves.
• Contagion risk within the crypto-assetsector resulting from interconnections among certain crypto-asset participants, including through opaque lending, investing, funding, service, and operational arrangements. These interconnections may also present concentration risks for banking organizations with exposures to the crypto-asset sector.
• Risk management and governance practices in the crypto-asset sector exhibiting a lack of maturity and robustness.
• Heightened risks associated with open, public, and/or decentralized networks, or similar systems, including, but not limited to, the lack of governance mechanisms establishing oversight of the system; the absence of contracts or standards to clearly establish roles, responsibilities, and liabilities; and vulnerabilities related to cyber-attacks, outages, lost or trapped assets, and illicit finance.
It is important that risks related to the crypto-asset sector that cannot be mitigated or controlled do not migrate to the banking system. The agencies are supervising banking organizations that may be exposed to risks stemming from the crypto-asset sector and carefully reviewing any proposals from banking organizations to engage in activities that involve crypto-assets. Through the agencies’ case-by-case approaches to date, the agencies continue to build knowledge, expertise, and understanding of the risks crypto-assets may pose to banking organizations, their customers, and the broader U.S. financial system. Given the significant risks highlighted by recent failures of several large crypto-asset companies, the agencies continue to take a careful and cautious approach related to current or proposed crypto-asset-related activities and exposures at each banking organization.
Banking organizations are neither
prohibited nor discouraged from providing banking services to customers of
any specific class or type, as permitted by law or regulation. The agencies
are continuing to assess whether or how current and proposed
crypto-asset-related activities by banking organizations can be conducted in
a manner that adequately addresses safety and soundness, consumer
protection, legal permissibility, and compliance with applicable laws and
regulations, including anti-money laundering and illicit finance statutes
and rules.Based on the
The agencies will continue to closely monitor crypto-asset-related exposures of banking organizations. As warranted, the agencies will issue additional statements related to engagement by banking organizations in crypto-asset-related activities. The agencies also will continue to engage and collaborate with other relevant authorities, as appropriate, on issues arising from activities involving crypto-assets.
Each agency has developed processes
whereby banking organizations engage in robust supervisory discussions
regarding proposed and existing crypto-asset-related activities. Banking
organizations should ensure that crypto-asset-related activities can be
performed in a safe and sound manner, are legally permissible, and comply
with applicable laws and regulations, including those designed to protect
consumers (such as fair lending laws and prohibitions against unfair,
deceptive, or abusive acts or practices). Banking organizations should
ensure appropriate risk management, including board oversight, policies,
procedures, risk assessments, controls,