Has the OCC become too politicized?
By Brenden Pederson
Bank regulators traditionally avoid the level of partisan warfare playing out in other corners of the capital. But policy observers point to recent actions by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as a sign of politicization creeping into the government’s oversight of the industry.The OCC has not only engaged in public fights with other agencies over policy differences, namely how each reforms the Community Reinvestment Act. But some moves by acting Comptroller Brian Brooks — most recently a proposal punishing banks that restrict lending to firearms and fossil fuel businesses — are seen crossing the line separating bank regulation from partisan issues….“The fundamental assumption in the rule is that these decisions being made by banks are political decisions,” said Karen Petrou, managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics. “That’s very controversial.”…“In 1863 and ever since, the OCC was established to be independent with neutral, objective bank supervision. That is not a partisan or political initiative,” said Petrou. “But because finance has become so important, and the U.S. is so economically unequal, the decisions made in 2021 by the comptroller will be inherently political, if not partisan.”