What did the US Congress expect? That Brian Brooks, the incumbent Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, who came almost straight from Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company, would leave his crypto days behind when he assumed his new role?
The OCC, helmed by Brooks since April 2020, put out several letters of clarifications this summer that confirmed that cryptocurrency companies could become banks and that banks could also custody cryptocurrencies owned by their clients.
The lawmakers, Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), questioned “whether this is an appropriate priority for the OCC in the midst of this pandemic.”
They lambasted Brooks’s “excessive focus on crypto assets and crypto related financial services.”
“Arguably, the immediate needs of millions of at-risk individuals who have not yet received an economic stimulus check and/or cannot deposit their funds in a bank, deserve greater attention than an effort to increase access to financial services to the ‘banked community’ via mobile phones,” they said.
The members of Congress further said focusing on crypto overlooks issues facing small and minority-owned institutions, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Is the ire of Democratic members of Congress enough to shift Brooks’s focus? It appears not. As Decrypt hammers out this text, Brooks is speaking at Credit Suisse’s 4th Annual Blockchain and Digital Assets Symposium, discussing regulatory frameworks for the digital economy.