The Role of the OCC in Banking Regulation
It is widely anticipated that Republicans will be offering hundreds of amendments to the financial oversight reform bill put forward by Democrat Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. This indicates that there is a long road ahead in hashing out the details of the bill, and casting doubts on whether, in the likelihood of non-support by Republicans, Democrats will be able to gather the required 60 votes to take it to the next level – the Senate. One of the changes proposed by the Dodd’s bill is for the Federal Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to take over regulating regional and community banks with assets below $50 billion, which is currently being done by the Federal Reserve.
It’s not often that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency comes under the spotlight, and many are not aware of the important role it plays in regulating US banks, as well as overseeing the agencies of foreign banks in the US – having done so since being formed in 1863. The current Comptroller of the Currency is John Dugan and the headquarters of the agency is in Washington, DC, with district offices located in Denver, Dallas, Chicago and New York City, and field offices placed strategically throughout the country. The OCC also has an office in London which supervises the international activities of US banks.
The OCC is associated with the US Treasury Department as an independent bureau fulfilling a number of vital roles. These include ensuring the soundness of the US banking system; fostering competition by facilitating the development of new products and services offered by banks; and ensuring access to fair and equal financial services for all US citizens. The OCC also enforces laws governing money-laundering and anti-terrorism, as well as being responsible for investigating and prosecuting any acts of misconduct which may be committed by parties affiliated with and representing national banks, such as officers, directors, employees, and independent contractors and consultants.
To carry out its duties to the fullest extent, the OCC interacts and cooperates with other US government agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration and Office of Thrift Supervision. Furthermore, the Comptroller serves on the board of directors for the FDIC and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. Through its website, HelpWithMyBank.gov, the OCC offers assistance to customers of national banks, answering a wide range of questions with regard to national banking regulation.