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Last week, the American Banker had a synopsis of views filed on Treasury’s request for comments on digital-finance regulation. Its quote from the ABA’s comment letter is striking, indicating that this letter pointed to the increasingly-absurd reality of no rules for nonbanks and no digital assets for banks given all their rules. Progressive advocates pushed back, arguing that it’s right to keep banks quashed because of all the systemic hazards they pose. To my thinking, both sides are right, with recent history not just showing why, but also how urgent it is for regulators finally to act on both overarching crypto rules and those governing bank exposures in this volatile sector.
The recent history I have in mind is the chilling precedent of subprime mortgages starting in around 2003. I well remember a meeting at the OCC in which my late husband detailed both the borrower and market risks of new mortgage products such as those with “silent seconds” extended to borrowers with no demonstrable ability to repay even a first line from resources other than the ever-appreciating house prices investors somehow believed were a force of nature that always blew balmy winds their way.
The OCC official with whom we spoke was even more worried than we about emerging market trends, but she was over-ruled from on high. This was first because national banks weren’t sounding the alarm, second because no other banking agency seemed worried, and finally because anything that adversely affected national banks might have undermined …