In Interpretive Letter 1179, the OCC clarified the authority of (i) banks to engage in cryptocurrency activities and (ii) the OCC to charter national trust banks.
The OCC stated that a bank can engage in the activities outlined in Interpretive Letters 1170, 1172 and 1174, which pertain to (i) cryptocurrency custody services, (ii) whether banks may hold deposits to serve as "reserves backing stablecoin," and (iii) banks' engagement with distributed ledger technology for payment services, respectively. The OCC clarified that in order for a bank to engage in such activities, it must demonstrate that it has "controls in place to conduct the activity in a safe and sound manner." The OCC specified that banks intending to engage in such activities must first notify their supervisory office and receive permission. Supervisory offices must assess whether a bank's risk management systems and controls are sufficient for engagement in such activities.
The OCC also reiterated its clarification in Interpretive Letter 1176 that (i) the OCC has the authority to charter a national bank that operates only as a trust company, and (ii) the OCC's chartering authority does not expand or modify banks' current responsibilities under Part 9 ("Fiduciary Activities of National Banks") of the OCC Rules. With respect to assessing whether an entity's activities are limited to the operations of a trust company, the OCC asserted that it retains the authority to assess "whether an activity is conducted in a fiduciary capacity for purposes of federal law."