As the U.S. Treasury — which manages the revenues and minting duties of the American government — has kicked off emergency efforts to save a pandemic-stricken economy, cryptoeconomy brows were raised this week upon a notable new hire in the department’s influential banking bureau.
That bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), is an independent arm of the Treasury and is responsible for regulating and fostering the U.S. banking system, which is no small task.
That reality is why many cryptocurrency stakeholders perked up on the OCC’s new announcement that Brian Brooks, the chief legal officer at San Francisco-based crypto exchange giant Coinbase, would be serving as the OCC’s chief operating officer and First Deputy Comptroller as of April 1st, 2020.
Sec. Mnuchin Surprises Crypto Arena
Brooks, who will resign from Coinbase ahead of the transition, comes to the OCC by way of designation from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who in the past has demonstrated general skepticism toward cryptocurrencies.
“I look forward to working with him to ensure the stability of our financial system and its ability to foster greater economic growth for the benefit of all Americans,” Mnuchin said of Brooks.
Accordingly, Brooks’s direct experience with the cryptoeconomy obviously wasn’t a disqualifier for Mnuchin, and indeed his arrival may signal the Treasury Secretary’s view that U.S. banking system will increasingly interact with the cryptoeconomy, which would make it fruitful to have an expert helping to head up the OCC.
Still, though, Mnuchin’s involvement can’t help but pique many cryptocurrency proponent’s intrigue, considering the critical comments he’s made toward the space in the past.
For example, during his time as Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin has cast doubt on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as “national security threats” and has gone so far as to say he “personally [will] not be loaded up on bitcoin” in a decade’s time. Mnuchin has also previously denied the need for the Federal Reserve to issue a blockchain-powered dollar in the next five years.
With that said, the Treasury Secretary has recently charted out a course for new tougher domestic rules on crypto in America’s nook of the cryptoeconomy, so bringing aboard Brooks as the OCC’s COO may indeed help toward that end.
Coinbase Chimes In
It reflects well on Coinbase as a firm that one of its upper echelon would go on to serve in such a high-profile role in the U.S. government, as it suggests the company has strong culture and aptly fosters talent.
Yet Brooks’s appointment also reflects well on the quality of work that will be done at the OCC under his watch, a Coinbase spokesperson told industry publication CoinTelegraph on the news:
“In the midst of a public health and financial crisis, we are comforted to know that Brian Brooks will serve in this critical role overseeing the nation’s banking system […] We’re always proud of Coinbase alumni who go on to serve in government, bringing a crypto-friendly perspective with them.”
Crypto Space Eyes Treasury’s “USD Airdrop”
On Tuesday, March 17th, the Trump administration announced it was working on a $1 trillion USD stimulus package that would be aimed at helping American businesses and families better weather the economic strife caused by the ongoing and global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Later in the day, Secretary Mnuchin confirmed that direct payments from the government to American families were on the table, as “Americans need cash now.”
Some stakeholders in the cryptoeconomy immediately latched onto the news as a coming “USD airdrop,” a playful reference to the free airdrops that are used to stimulate token supplies in the ecosystem.
However, how the emergency stimulus will be paid for remains to be seen, as the money will either have to printed as inflation or tacked on as debt to the massive and growing U.S. national debt — two dynamics that aren’t lost on more than a few crypto supporters.