Banking heavyweights oppose strict Basel rules for holding crypto capital

    25 Sep 2021

    A forum of some of the largest U.S. and European banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, has urged modifications to the rules proposed by the world’s central banks and regulators for capital requirements on Bitcoin exposure.

    Banking bosses from the largest financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe have voiced their opposition to the cryptocurrency mandates handed down in June by the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision (BCBS), which proposes strict capital requirements for every dollar of Bitcoin owned.

    The Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA), a forum for banks that includes JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank, published together with five other industry associations a letter on Tuesday that pushed against the new regulation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    The letter was signed by the Financial Services Forum, the Futures Industry Association, the Institute of International Finance, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, and the Chamber of Digital Commerce, as well as the Global Financial Markets Association.

    “The prudential framework envisaged by the consultation would create material impediments to regulated bank participation in crypto-asset markets. Not only do certain elements of the proposal make bank involvement in the crypto-asset market cost-prohibitive from a capital perspective, other elements, such as operational requirements for tokenized assets, are unlikely to be able to be satisfied in practice,” the letter to the Basel Committee stated.

    The trade associations maintain that the proposed mandates are futile because they would ultimately prevent banks from holding cryptocurrencies at all. Further, they said the high-risk weight was excessive for highly traded cryptos like Bitcoin and Ether.

    “We find the proposals in the consultation to be so overly conservative and simplistic that they, in effect, would preclude bank involvement in crypto-asset markets,” the associations wrote in the letter to the BCBS.

    The BCBS is the primary agency, comprised of 45 central banks and bank supervisors from 28 regions, that sets the global standard for bank regulations and offers a vehicle for banking supervisory matters. The committee doesn’t enforce regulations but institutes minimum standards that regulators worldwide can implement.

    The committee’s proposed regulations indeed demonstrated an attempt of regulators to stop or at least disincentivize banking institutions from getting Bitcoin exposure. While bank exposures to Bitcoin are currently limited, the Swiss-based committee said in June, “their continued growth could increase risks to global financial stability if capital requirements are not introduced,” Reuters reported.

    Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., CEO of GFMA and president and CEO of SIFMA, said in a GFMA press release that the association feels that distributed ledger technology and blockchain are enough to “drive efficiencies and help customers,” and there is value and transparency by “delivering those benefits through banks.”

    As recently reported, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Christine Lagarde came into the spotlight for saying that Bitcoin and “cryptos are not currencies.” The head of the ECB later praised her own central bank digital currency (CBDC) in an attempt to drive investors away from Bitcoin and into her soon-to-be-developed digitized euro.

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