September 13, 2016 / 5:35 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. bank overseer plans report on marketplace lending this fall

BOSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Comptroller of the Currency said on Tuesday his agency plans to complete this autumn a framework to regulate marketplace lending, citing concerns that new financial-technology innovations may pose risks to consumers and the banking system.

Speaking at an industry conference in Washington, D.C., the comptroller, Thomas Curry, whose agency regulates national banks, said one option would be to grant limited charters to financial technology companies, or fintechs.

But if that happens, “the institutions who receive the charters will be held to the same strict standards of safety, soundness and fairness that other federally chartered institutions must meet,” Curry said, according to his prepared remarks.

In weighing such matters, he said officials are studying issues including whether marketplace lending or other innovations such as digital currencies raise what he called “unique risks.”

Marketplace lending activities include crowdfunding and peer to peer lending, and the sector has grown quickly in recent years. Curry said that as of 2015 marketplace lenders in the United States had originated about $29 billion in consumer loans.

But he noted the industry’s growth has occurred under positive business conditions including low interest rates and strong credit. “A less favorable credit cycle will test this business in ways it hasn’t yet experienced,” he said.

He also said a policy question is whether new technologies comply with existing laws, such as whether algorithms to determine a consumer’s creditworthiness raise issues of illegal bias.

Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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