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  • L Higgins and S Pettigrove

US Congress to review bipartisan stablecoin bill

In a bipartisan effort to fortify the regulatory landscape surrounding stablecoins, US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis have introduced the "Lummis-Gillibrand Payment Stablecoin Act" bill. The proposed legislation aims to establish a clear regulatory framework for stablecoins, striking a balance between fostering innovation, consumer protection, and maintaining the integrity of the US dollar.

The core objective of the bill is to ensure that stablecoins operate within a well-defined regulatory framework. This move comes as various stakeholders, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, advocate for robust oversight of stablecoin operations.

The legislation proposes to mandate one-to-one reserves for stablecoin issuers, which aims to ensure that issuers maintain sufficient backing for their digital assets, mitigating the risk of insolvency and loss for users. Moreover, the act prohibits the issuance of unbacked algorithmic stablecoins, likely in response several failures (see the Luna collapse of May 2022). Recognising the global nature of digital finance, the bill also addresses illicit finance and aims to prevent stablecoins from being used for money laundering and terrorist financing.

Senator Lummis has been outspoken on the topic of cryptocurrency and blockchain, often appearing to champion the cause:

While the legislation represents a significant step towards regulating stablecoins, industry participants have voiced concerns regarding its scope and potential implications. One immediate concern revolves around the bill's treatment of crypto-backed tokens like DAI and the outright ban on algorithmic stablecoins. Critics argue that the legislation lacks provisions addressing these specific types of stablecoins, potentially leaving gaps in regulatory coverage.

Moreover, the bill primarily focuses on regulating stablecoins issued by US companies, raising questions about its efficacy in addressing stablecoins issued by foreign entities such as Tether (USDT). Although the legislation aims to curtail the use of unregulated foreign stablecoins by imposing stringent regulations on US-based issuers, there remains uncertainty about its ability to prevent foreign entities from accessing US customers.

Looking ahead, the fate of stablecoin legislation hinges on several factors, including congressional priorities, legislative timelines, and ongoing negotiations. With legislators increasingly focused on campaign activities for the upcoming US presidential election, the window for passing comprehensive stablecoin legislation may narrow. However, there remains optimism that bipartisan support and growing awareness of the need for regulatory clarity will propel the bill forward.

While uncertainties persist, there is a palpable sense of urgency to enact meaningful regulatory reforms that protect both innovation and consumer protection. As the debate surrounding stablecoin regulation continues to evolve, stakeholders across the financial ecosystem remain hopeful that concerted efforts will yield a robust regulatory framework that fosters innovation, safeguards consumers, and strengthens the integrity of the financial system.

By Michael Bacina, Luke Higgins and Steven Pettigrove


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