“Everything is at risk” if financial technology is politicized, said Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks.
Speaking at a public event hosted by blockchain analysis firm Elliptic on Wednesday, Brooks said the world needs to stop politicizing tech, pointing to the reaction after an attempted insurrection in Washington, D.C., last week that saw supporters of President Donald Trump break into the Capitol Building in an effort to halt the formal acceptance of the Electoral College votes.
“We had a really, really awful event in the United States last week, as everybody knows, I mean we saw things that were not worthy of a mature democracy in the 21st century, not worthy of the eras of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison,” Brooks said. “What has followed from that, however, is truly chilling. Now you’ve got payments companies saying that they will not process the payments of people who are on a certain political party who voted one way on a contested political issue.”
Payments platforms Shopify and Stripe deplatformed Trump’s campaign after the violence, which saw five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer.
Brooks said this is an extension of the existing pressure payment companies have exerted on businesses in the past, such as Mastercard and Visa announcing they wouldn’t process transactions for pornography.
He also pointed to the firearms and tobacco industries as areas financial institutions do not want to service. The OCC under Brooks is looking into creating a rule that would prohibit institutions from not providing services to certain industries, including the energy and crypto sectors. While a public comment period on the proposal has closed, the rule itself has not yet been finalized.
“We live in a world where not only information, but also money might be controlled by a handful of elites who might not like the way that any one of us thinks [about an issue],” Brooks said in the live-streamed interview with Elliptic CEO Simone Maini. “This is what decentralization is about. In the world of crypto, there is no CEO. Crypto is about freedom and if you didn’t believe that freedom mattered last week, you should think about it again.”