WASHINGTON — A Republican lawmaker is urging the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to consider issues related to virtual currency companies as the agency develops a fintech regulatory framework.
In a letter addressed to Comptroller Thomas Curry, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., applauded the OCC's recent overtures to the fintech industry, but he said the agency appeared to be ignoring the regulatory headaches of virtual currency firms.
"The scope of this commitment to fostering regulatory flexibility has been, at times, narrowly specified," Schweikert said in the letter, which the congressman released Tuesday.
The OCC has said it plans to issue a framework this fall addressing fintech regulation. In what was seen as an initial step, the OCC released a proposal this month detailing how it could use its receivership powers if a nationally chartered, nondepository institution were to fail. The plan was widely viewed as a steppingstone for creating a limited charter for fintech firms.
But since the OCC's plan only refers to institutions engaged in "core banking" activities — lending, taking in deposits and paying checks — observers noted that it did not appear tailored to virtual currency companies.
Schweikert suggested that because virtual currency companies do not fit into the traditional mold of a financial institution, they should be given a different type of charter.
Online lenders and virtual currency companies "generally have different needs from a limited charter," Schweikert said. The latter "do not seek to engage in lending or deposit-taking, but instead seek to identify the regulator with the ability to preempt state money transmission law and access to the payment system."
Schweikert's letter was well received by virtual currency advocates, who have urged lawmakers to create a safe harbor from money-transmitter laws for certain bitcoin companies.
"We're very heartened by the interest that members of Congress are showing in making sure that the greatest impediments to cryptocurrency innovation are addressed and that we get it right," Coin Center Director Jerry Brito said in a statement applauding the letter.
Last week the House passed a nonbinding resolution to "encourage the development" of innovative financial technology such as the blockchain.