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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, May 12, 2017

Banking Committee Dems demand answers about acting head of the OCC

By Lisa M. Goolik, J.D.

Senate Democrats are questioning Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to replace Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry with a new acting head of the OCC, Keith Noreika. In the letter, seven senators from the Banking Committee—Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Jack Reed (D-RI)—accused Mnuchin of circumventing the nomination and Senate confirmation process and raised concerns about Noreika’s experience and potential conflicts of interest. The senators demanded that Mnuchin respond to questions regarding Noreika’s appointment by May 17.

"The Comptroller of the Currency must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. President Trump has not named a nominee for this position," they wrote. "Yet you have chosen to replace the current head with an acting head who is unvetted, has obvious conflicts of interest, and lacks the experience to run an agency that employs almost 4,000 individuals and oversees over 2,000 national banks, both large and small."

In a separate statement, Reed called Noreika’s appointment "a thinly veiled attempt to sidestep ethics rules and rollback financial regulations." Reed accused the Trump Administration of "further rigging the system and putting the interests of big banks ahead of the financial well-being of the American people."

Prior to his appointment, Noreika was "a leading bank regulatory attorney" with Simpson Thacher.

Concerns shared by consumer advocates. Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen issued a similar statement, questioning Noreika’s appointment in light of potential conflicts of interest and accusing the Trump Administration of "taking the side of Wall Street."

According to Public Citizen, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on May 11, 2017, Noreika stated that banking regulators could grant exemptions for types of trading activities currently barred under the Volcker Rule.

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