Brown, Colleagues Call on Bank Regulators to Review SoFi's Crypto Activities
At Last Week’s Hearing, Brown Vowed to Work Together to Protect the Banking System from Risks
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Committee members Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tina Smith (D-MN) sent letters urging Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr, FDIC Acting Chair Marty Gruenberg, and Acting Comptroller Michael Hsu to review SoFi’s crypto trading activities. The lawmakers highlighted the risk to consumers when banks trade volatile crypto assets and warned that SoFi’s crypto trading may be in violation of regulatory requirements.
“SoFi’s digital asset activities pose significant risks to both individual investors and safety and soundness,” they wrote. “…it is imperative the Fed, FDIC, and OCC ensure that SoFi complies with all consumer financial protection and banking regulations. We commend you for the work that your agencies are doing to protect the public from digital asset risks.”
The lawmakers also wrote a letter to SoFi’s CEO Anthony Noto, pressing the bank to conform to U.S. banking law. “We are concerned that SoFi’s continued impermissible digital asset activities demonstrate a failure to take seriously its regulatory commitments and to adhere to its obligations,” they wrote.
Brown has long fought to protect consumers and working families from the risks of cryptocurrencies. This year alone, he has chaired Committee hearings on the risks of stablecoins, crypto’s role in illicit finance, and the crypto scams and fraud plaguing consumers.
A copy of the letter to SoFi is available here.
A copy of the letter to the bank regulators is available here and below:
Dear Vice Chair Barr, Acting Chair Gruenberg, and Acting Comptroller Hsu:
Following your testimony before Congress this week, as well as continued volatility in cryptocurrency markets, we write to urge your continued monitor of organizations engaged in crypto-asset related activities and ensure they meet regulatory requirements. Bank exposure to volatile crypto-assets raises significant risks to financial stability and the federal safety net. In various capacities, your agencies possess regulatory authority over SoFi Bank, National Association and bank holding companies SoFi Technologies, Inc. and Social Finance, Inc. (collectively referred to as SoFi). We are concerned that SoFi’s digital asset trading activities pose risks to consumers and safety and soundness risks.
In January 2022, SoFi received approval from the Federal Reserve for the acquisition of Golden Pacific Bancorp, Inc. and a conditional approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for the creation of SoFi Bank, N.A. SoFi completed the acquisition in February 2022. As part of the approval, the Federal Reserve provided SoFi with two years to divest from SoFi Digital Assets —a nonbank subsidiary that allows retail investors to buy and sell digital assets — or conform the subsidiary’s impermissible digital asset activities to the law. During this conformance period, SoFi has committed not to “expand [its] impermissible activities,” except as specifically authorized by law. SoFi initially agreed to these terms, but since the acquisition, SoFi Digital Assets has apparently expanded its retail digital assets operations.
Two months after receiving regulatory approval, SoFi announced a new service allowing customers of its national bank to invest part of every direct deposit into digital assets with no fees. The company publicly billed this service as “the latest expansion of SoFi’s offerings to make it simpler to get started with cryptocurrency investing.” SoFi’s own investor protection materials, however, warn customers that at least one token listed on SoFi Digital Assets is “a crypto pump-and-dump” hazard with “no special use case or features” and that “[it] might be among the most high-risk endeavors an investor can take.” Troublingly, this conduct raises questions about SoFi’s compliance with commitments made in the January 2022 approvals and to meeting its ongoing obligations as a banking organization.
SoFi’s digital asset activities pose significant risks to both individual investors and safety and soundness. As we saw with the crypto meltdown this summer, where crypto-assets lost over $1 trillion in value in a matter of weeks, contagion in the banking system was limited because of regulatory guardrails. In the event of crypto-related exposures at SoFi Digital Assets ultimately require its parent company, bank holding company, or affiliated national bank to seek emergency liquidity or other financial assistance from the Federal Reserve or FDIC, taxpayers may be on the hook. Your agencies have publicly acknowledged these types of crypto-related risks. In fact, the Fed issued guidance detailing the risks posed by crypto-asset related activities to cybersecurity, anti-money laundering and countering of financing of terrorism efforts, consumer protection, and financial stability. Similarly, the OCC called out the volatility of crypto activities and the risks of the crypto “hype-driven economy” to investors of modest means, and the FDIC issued an advisory warning of the risks to consumers when crypto companies misrepresent the availability of deposit insurance for crypto assets.
Given these significant risks, it is imperative the Fed, FDIC, and OCC ensure that SoFi complies with all consumer financial protection and banking regulations. We commend you for the work that your agencies are doing to protect the public from digital asset risks.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
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