CFPB Eyes Big Tech’s Payments Efforts and Stablecoin Risks for Review

Courtesy of

The words “systemic” and “risk” have been on everyone’s lips in the past few weeks.

And for Big Tech, at least, the regulatory gaze will only widen, eyeing the payments ambitions of the biggest platforms, and whether new payment types — stablecoins among them — might scale enough on those platforms to be a cause for vigilance.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) efforts may get renewed vigor in the wake of the fact late last month federal appeals court ruled that the CFPB’s funding via the Federal Reserve is constitutional.

And this week, appearing on Yahoo Finance Live, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra gave some insight into the areas ripe for consideration and review — and perhaps some new regulations too.

He said the Financial Stability Oversight Council has the authority to “designate certain payment activities [including] payment clearing and settlement as either systemic or likely to become systemic.”

Among the payment methods that need to be examined, per Chopra’s commentary: stablecoins, which could conceivably start “riding the rails of a Big Tech platform or a card network.”

Who’s on the Platform and Who’s Not 

“There are some questions we have,” he said of the platforms, “about how do some of these services decide to kick a merchant off or kick a user off? How are they actually using all the data that they’re collecting through our phones and through what we buy?”

He noted that beyond the ability to craft targeted ads, there may be a “move to a world with personalized pricing.”

The regulators, he said, have been looking, and will continue to look, at the cloud services offered by Big Tech players — with particular concern around the risks tied to outage or attacks by fraudsters and hackers, non-state and state actors alike. The risks extend to healthcare, energy and other sectors, he said.

“It’s hard to know what specific tools we’ll use,” he told the finance site, as to what guardrails, regulations and policies may be on the horizon.

As reported by PYMNTS in recent weeks, the drumbeat for stablecoin regulation is likely to grow louder after the stablecoin USDC briefly lost its dollar peg. USDC dipped to as low as 86 cents after the issuer of the stablecoin, Circle, said that some of the funds backing the stablecoin were held at Silicon Valley Bank.

Big Tech’s financial services roadmaps may be determined in part by open banking, where as banks share account data and other details (with consumer permission), they can offer a range of financial products. There’s also, of course, the ability for Big Tech to apply for banking licenses. Apple’s latest push into buy now, pay later (BNPL), with Apple Pay Later, is but one of the more recent examples of the lines blurring between payments, providers and platforms.