Otting’s departure sets some milestones – including shortest tenure as comptroller in about 96 years

The exit by Friday of Joseph Otting from his office as comptroller of the currency will mark a number of milestones, including:

  • His tenure of 29 months as leader of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the regulator of national banks, will be the shortest in the past 96 years of any other comptroller.
  • In fact, it will be the seventh shortest of all the 31 men who have held the office since 1863 (157 years ago), when the OCC was established under the National Currency Act.
  • He will be the first comptroller since 1985 (35 years) not to serve at least a full five-year term.
  • Otting’s successor will be the first deputy comptroller, appointed by the Treasury secretary (and not confirmed by the Senate – as Otting was when he was nominated in 2017 by President Donald Trump). Typically, comptrollers are appointed by presidents (for full terms or recess appointments); no nomination has yet been advanced by the White House.

Otting’s resignation was announced May 21 by the OCC. In a release, neither Otting nor the agency gave a reason for his departure.

The release did state, however, that Brian P. Brooks, now the first deputy comptroller and designated chief operating officer (COO) of the agency, will take over as acting comptroller. The agency noted in the release that, as Brooks was designated by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin as first deputy, Brooks would become acting comptroller of the currency.

The release cited federal law (under Title 12, section 4 of the U.S. Code) that “ … During a vacancy in the office or during the absence or disability of the Comptroller, each Deputy Comptroller shall possess the power and perform the duties attached by law to the office of the Comptroller under such order of succession following the First Deputy Comptroller as the Comptroller shall direct.”

Brooks joined the OCC April 1 as first deputy comptroller. An attorney, Brooks was also employed by OneWest Bank from 2011-14. Otting, while CEO of the bank, in 2011 signed a consent decree with the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS, which is part of the OCC) regarding the bank’s violations during the 2010 United States foreclosure crisis. Brooks is a former general counsel for the Federal National Mortgage Association. (Fannie Mae).

According to information posted about past comptrollers on the OCC’s website, Otting’s 29 months as comptroller is the shortest tenure in the job since that posted by Henry M. Dawes, who served as comptroller under President Warren Harding for 19 months, from May 1923 to December 1924. That was about 96 years ago. The shortest tenure ever by a comptroller of about eight months was that of A. Barton Hepburn, who served from August 1892 to April 1893. Hepburn was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison.

Otting’s tenure is the seventh shortest among all 31 comptrollers who have served since 1863.

In recent times (since Dawes’ relatively short time in office), most comptrollers served either their full five-year terms, or even beyond that as they also filled out recess appointments, among other things.

In fact, since C.T. Conover’s tenure as comptroller (from 1981-85), each comptroller – now with the exception of Otting – served at least all five years of his term, with Robert Clarke serving seven years. Conover and Clarke were both appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

Otting was preceded in office by Keith Noreika, who was appointed by President Trump as acting comptroller upon the completion of the term of Thomas J. Curry (an appointee of President Barack Obama). Noreika held the “acting comptroller” position for seven months before being succeed by Otting. Noreika is not listed on the OCC’s website as a former comptroller.

Previous Comptrollers of the Currency

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting to Step Down, Brian P. Brooks to Become Acting Comptroller of the Currency on May 29, 2020