U.S. appoints lawyer as interim boss of OCC

Reuters News
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Posted: May 03, 2017 9:01 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government unveiled plans on Wednesday to replace the chief overseer of federally chartered banks with a veteran financial lawyer as President Donald Trump starts to put his stamp on regulating Wall Street.

Keith Noreika, an attorney at law firm Simpson Thacher, will be First Deputy Comptroller at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), effectively the No 2 spot. The OCC writes money laundering rules, bank charters and is one of several regulators that monitor the health of Wall Street.

Noreika will run the OCC on an interim basis when Thomas Curry, the current Comptroller, leaves on May 5, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Curry, a career regulator, was appointed by the Obama administration for a five-year term that expired last month. He has been serving under an extension since that time.

Under Curry's tenure the OCC focused on risky lending practices, increasing scrutiny of highly leveraged loans and putting pressure on energy bankers to stop propping up troubled oil and gas companies with extra credit.

It was also trying to establish itself as a regulator of online lenders and financial technology firms, to the chagrin of state authorities who argued that was their job.

Joseph Otting, a former banker who worked with Mnuchin at Californian lender OneWest, is considered the lead contender to replace Curry permanently, according to people familiar with the matter. That appointment requires Senate confirmation.

GAPS ON THE FED

Trump wants to overhaul regulation of the financial services system and has asked Mnuchin to review the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law by June 3, as well as look into other areas of rulemaking, a difficult task given the government's current lean crew of regulators.

There are three vacant spots on the Federal Reserve Board, including the post of vice-chair of supervision, which will play a key role in any overhaul of bank supervision.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mnuchin told a conference of community bankers that Trump had signed off on a nominee to fill the vice-chair role but did not name the person. Reuters had previously reported that Randal Quarles, who worked as under secretary for domestic finance at the Treasury under President George W. Bush, was a leading candidate.

Mnuchin said the administration was also close to naming the two other Fed selections.

Nearly every major financial regulator has had significant leadership gaps since Trump took office in January, and there are more openings on the horizon as the terms expire for rulemakers who were appointed by former President Barack Obama.

The U.S. Senate, where Trump's fellow Republicans hold only a slim majority, must sign off on most of the postings, which could slow down Trump and Mnuchin's work on changing the reforms that came out of the 2007-09 financial crisis.

(Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)