The United States Federal Reserve is set to create a “specialized team of experts” to keep up with developments in the cryptocurrency industry, according to a Fed official, amid concerns from the central bank about “unregulated” stablecoins.
Speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington on March 9, Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr admitted that crypto could have a “transformative effect” on the financial system but added that “the benefits of innovation can only be realized if appropriate guardrails are in place.”
According to Barr, the new crypto team will help the Federal Reserve “learn from new developments and make sure we’re up to date on innovation in this sector.” He added:
“Innovation always comes quickly, but it takes time for consumers to become aware that they could both gain and lose money on new financial products.”
Meanwhile, Barr noted that regulation needs to be a “deliberative process” to ensure a balance is reached between over-regulation that “will stifle innovation” and under-regulation that “will allow for substantial harm to households and the financial system”
One subsect of crypto that Barr highlighted as a point of concern was stablecoins.
He said that the assets backing many stablecoins in circulation are illiquid, meaning that it can be difficult to liquidate them for cash when needed, arguing:
“This mismatch in value and liquidity is the recipe for a classic bank run.”
He believes that unless regulated by the Fed, any widespread adoption of stablecoins could put households, businesses and the broader economy at risk.
Caitlin Long, the CEO of Custodia Bank — which has consistently been rejected from joining the Federal Reserve System — pointed out the irony in the comments from Barr given her belief that Silvergate Bank collapsed due to liquidity issues arising from a bank run.
Long also pointed to the current issues facing Silicon Valley Bank, whose shares plummeted after a March 8 financial update disclosed that it sold $21 billion worth of its holdings at a $1.8 billion loss, prompting fears that it was forced to sell to free up capital.