A proposed rule from the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency seeks to provide a particular kind of equitable relief to affected businesses: fairer access to banking services.
Published on November 20, the OCC's stated position is that "banks should provide access to services, capital, and credit based on the risk assessment of individual customers, rather than broad-based decisions affecting whole categories or classes of customers," according to the US banking regulator's statement on Friday.
Essentially, the proposal will stop banks from limiting the access customers or businesses have to banking services. Instead, banks would be required to make their products available to everyone in the community they serve. However, it is still up to the bank to deny services to a customer based on their creditworthiness, ability to pay, and other risk-based factors.
The move was quickly hailed as a boon for cryptocurrency industry businesses. And while the proposal itself makes no specific mention of this particular sector, there's little doubt it would have a positive impact on such firms, given the long-standing barriers between them and bank accounts in the US.
Such issues date back years. impacting not only companies that offer crypto services but, in at least one 2014 case, companies that even hint at a casual relationship with cryptocurrency.
"No bank is willing to help them out," Robby Houben, a lawyer and professor, told American Banker in 2019.
To be sure, some US-based banks such as Silvergate have generated significant business by maintaining more of an open-door policy with respect to banking crypto businesses. But the problem persists, and the OCC policy — far-ranging in scope — holds the promise of providing some equitable relief to not only crypto firms but others caught in the proverbial web of banks' risk decisions.
"Today, the OCC, led by @BrianBrooksOCC is making a bold effort to curtail the practice by prohibiting banks from discriminating against politically disfavored but otherwise legal businesses," lawyer Marco Santori wrote on Twitter.
Brooks himself said in a statement:
“This proposed rule would ensure that banks meet their responsibility to provide their services fairly since they enjoy special privilege and powers because if the system fails to provide fairness to all, it cannot be a source of strength for any."