Bitcoin Payments Startup BitPay Applies For National U.S. Banking License

Bitcoin has piqued the interest of big banks on Wall Street this year but now the tables have turned.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency payments company BitPay has filed paperwork with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to create a national bank—named the BitPay National Trust Bank.

“This is the first step of many on our journey to launch a chartered institution,” Eden Doniger, BitPay’s general counsel and chief compliance officer, said in an emailed statement after details of the application were published in a legal notice.

BitPay National Trust Bank, if approved by the OCC—the only entity that charters national banks in the U.S.—would be headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, according to the application.

BitPay’s bank bid comes after OCC acting comptroller Brian Brooks, who served as the chief legal officer of major U.S. bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase from 2018 until earlier this year, revealed plans to reform how crypto and fintech startups license their operations.

In September, Brooks outlined plans to empower payment firms to operate across state lines with a single set of consolidated rules and said the OCC is ready to begin accepting applications.

“The OCC is at the forefront of government regulation of the cryptocurrency industry,” Doniger added. “We applaud the OCC’s leadership in recognizing the need for innovation to facilitate regulation of cryptocurrency participants at a national level.”

However, traditional banks and credit unions have pushed back against Brooks’ plans.

“A few months into his service in an acting capacity, a bank regulator (and former cryptocurrency lawyer) pushes ahead with a legally dubious plan to give tech companies banking charters,” Graham Steele, director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said in September via Twitter.

Some lawmakers in Washington have petitioned U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to overturn Brooks’ crypto actions, though it’s unclear whether Biden will do so.

BitPay’s application is subject to a 30-day comment period, with comments to be directed to the OCC licensing director.



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