The OCC Interpretive Letter Regarding National Banks Providing Cryptocurrency Custody Services

July 30th | 2020

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) recently published an interpretive letter responding to an unnamed bank’s request for clarity around the authority of a national bank to provide cryptocurrency custody services for customers. The OCC’s letter affirms that a national bank may provide cryptocurrency custody services on behalf of customers, including by holding the unique cryptographic keys associated with cryptocurrency.

The OCC’s rationale is that national banks have long provided safekeeping and custody services for a wide variety of customer assets, including both physical objects and electronic assets. Thus, providing custody services for cryptocurrency fits within the longstanding authority for banks to engage in safekeeping and custody activities.

The letter ends with a few reminders (e.g., to have robust anti-money laundering and technology procedures) for banks that may be considering engaging in a cryptocurrency custody business. The OCC also asks banks to consult them before starting a cryptocurrency custody business and notes that such a business line will be reviewed in the ordinary course of the OCC’s supervisory process.

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