Blockchain… A Threat to Safety, Soundness & Resiliency?

By Tyler Kirk

On June 21, 2016, the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight counsel (“FSOC”) released its 2016 annual report. The purpose of the annual report is to summarize the FSOC’s current views on the U.S. financial system according to its mission to: (1) identify risks; (2) promote market discipline; and (3) respond to emerging threats. Notably, the 2016 report identified the use of blockchain as an emerging business practice requiring vigilant monitoring by financial regulators.

Since its establishment in 2010, the FSOC has issued six annual reports. This is the first time FinTech issues such as the blockchain have been identified as a potential risk to U.S. financial market stability. The FSOC noted that the use of blockchain protocols by financial institutions could positively impact the U.S. financial system by introducing efficiencies and reducing costs. However, according to the FSOC, “Market participants have limited experience working with distributed ledger systems, and it is possible that operational vulnerabilities associated with such systems may not become apparent until they are deployed at scale.”

Further, the FSOC cautioned that a “considerable degree of coordination among regulators” may be required given the distributed nature of blockchain networks. Noting that the U.S. financial system is constantly evolving, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew advocated for regulators to remain vigilant in order to maintain the safety, soundness and resiliency of the U.S. financial system. Yet, beyond vigilance, the FSOC did not recommend any specific action on blockchain by regulators, preserving the current hands-off approach.

The FSOC 2016 report can be found here.

 

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