- The United States Congress House Financial Services Committee held its first hearing on stablecoins in 2023
- The discussed bill aims at regulating stablecoins
- However, key Democrats expressed scepticism towards the draft bill during the hearing, questioning whether it was outdated and whether stablecoin regulation was necessary
On Wednesday, the United States Congress House Financial Services Committee held its first hearing on stablecoins in 2023 and discussed a draft bill that Representatives Maxine Waters and Patrick McHenry created last year. The bill aims at regulating stablecoins. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that maintains a stable value against a reference asset like the US dollar. The bill includes provisions such as capital requirements and customer protection measures.
However, key Democrats expressed scepticism towards the draft bill during the hearing, questioning whether it was outdated and whether stablecoin regulation was necessary. Rep. Stephen Lynch, the senior Democrat on the digital assets subcommittee, suggested that the draft language released by Republicans did not reflect lessons learned from the implosion of major crypto firms last year. Meanwhile, Rep. Waters indicated that negotiations over the bill’s provisions remained incomplete.
Despite the scepticism from Democrats, Rep. McHenry, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, emphasized the importance of having a United States federal bill on stablecoins on a bipartisan basis. He suggested that it was essential to clearly understand the utility and importance of the legislation, both domestically and internationally.
Last year, the United States Congress House stablecoin effort was considered Congress’s most promising cryptocurrency legislation. The top committee members agreed on most critical points, and the US Treasury Department also weighed in. However, negotiations ultimately stalled between McHenry and Waters, and since then, there have been no substantial talks between the parties.
Challenges in cryptocurrency regulation
Overall, the hearing highlights the challenges facing Congress in regulating the rapidly evolving cryptocurrency industry and the need for lawmakers to work together to develop effective and up-to-date legislation that balances innovation and consumer protection.
Lawmakers raised several key concerns during the United States Congress House Financial Services Committee hearing on stablecoins. One of the primary concerns was that consumers need protection. Companies often market stablecoins as a more stable and dependable digital currency than other cryptocurrencies, making them attractive to consumers. However, consumers may not fully grasp the dangers involved, such as losing value or lacking regulatory safeguards.
Another concern was the potential impact of stablecoins on the broader financial system. If not adequately regulated, stablecoins can disrupt traditional payment systems and financial institutions and create new risks to financial stability. Lawmakers expressed concern about using stablecoins for illicit activities such as money laundering, terrorist financing, or tax evasion. They stressed the need for strong anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.
Additionally, some lawmakers suggested that Reps. Waters and McHenry’s draft bill was outdated and did not reflect the lessons learned from recent events in the cryptocurrency industry. They suggested that the bill must address new risks and challenges in the evolving landscape of stablecoins by updating it.
Overall, the concerns raised by United States lawmakers highlight the need for clear and effective regulation of stablecoins that balances innovation with safety and soundness. As stablecoins continue to grow in popularity and become more integrated into the financial system, it will be necessary for regulators to ensure that they are subject to appropriate oversight and consumer protections.
Key Points of the Stablecoin Bill:
During the hearing, a widespread discussion occurred surrounding a new bill regulating stablecoins. The proposed legislation has the potential to reshape the stablecoin industry, ensuring that issuers adhere to stricter guidelines to maintain financial stability and protect consumers.
Fiat reserves requirement for stablecoin issuers
The proposed bill would require stablecoin issuers to hold fiat reserves at banks, with each stablecoin token backed by a 1-to-1 ratio of fiat currency. This measure aims to assure investors and users by ensuring their tokens can be easily converted to traditional currency when required.
Shift in regulatory control from SEC to Federal Reserve’s Banking Committee
The bill suggests a significant change in the regulatory oversight of stablecoins, with control over stablecoin issuers shifting from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to the Federal Reserve’s Banking Committee. This move reflects the growing significance of stablecoins in the financial system and the need for more robust regulation from a banking perspective.
Penalties for unauthorized stablecoin issuance
The proposed legislation also outlines penalties for issuing stablecoins without authorities’ consent. Those in violation could face fines of up to $1,000,000 and a maximum of 5 years in prison. These penalties underscore the seriousness with which regulators approach the stablecoin industry and their commitment to ensuring that it operates within the bounds of the law.
What Africa can learn from this
There are a few talking points that African authorities should notice here. Before we get into them, we need to establish a marked difference between traditional finance in the United States and the rest of the world. The US follows a rules-based system that imposes hard and fast rules for conduct. In the rest of the world, systems are principles-based. This means there are guiding principles but few hard and fast rules. So anything we take from the US approach must bear this in mind.
Users are ready for digital currency to become mainstream. Regulation for digital currencies should therefore be viewed as essential and urgent. To date, only South Africa in Africa has fully regulated digital currency. As a result, many have suffered losses due to the lack of regulation. Two particular points stand out here.
Stablecoin reserve requirements
The requirement for Fiat reserves for stablecoins is essential, especially in light of the collapses of FTX and Silicon Valley Bank. It may complicate the process of issuing stablecoins, but the risk of loss is one of the biggest fears regarding digital currency.
Regulating stablecoins and currency rather than assets
Secondly, switching the regulator from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Federal Reserve’s Banking Committee is a more critical move than it seems. One of the weaknesses of financial regulation has always been being behind the curve. When we look at a body like the Securities and Exchange Commission, they, by nature, will be behind the ball. A banking-focused regulator sees more real-time activity and can react quickly if appropriately handled. Simply, regulating crypto as money rather than assets makes better sense.
More discussions will occur on the Bill, with some matters still contentious. We can also glean from these activities that US lawmakers are putting more work into stablecoins than the digital dollar. At least for now. The impact on cryptocurrency will also be interesting.