Acting comptroller lists four priorities he intends to address as tenure begins, with a twist on local community investment

The acting chief regulator of national banks apparently opened his tenure in the job Friday by issuing a statement outlining four priorities he said would guide him in his new role – including how banks would invest in their local communities.

Brian P. Brooks, who is taking over the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) as “acting comptroller” following the resignation of Joseph Otting, said his priorities would be innovation, enhancing the national bank charter, ensuring bank community service through credit and access, and attention to OCC workers’ needs.

“These priorities will guide our effort over the months ahead and will ensure a safe, sound, and fair federal banking system; will help banks better serve the consumers, businesses, and communities that rely upon them, and will promote growth and economic opportunity, particularly for Main Street America,” Brooks said in a statement.

Otting announced his resignation last week, the day after issuing a finalized rewrite of rules implementing anti-redlining laws. Up to last week, the OCC along with the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) jointly enforced the rules, which implement the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). However, both the Fed and the FDIC opted not to opt in to the OCC’s plan – and the comptroller ended up issuing the rewrite alone.

Although Brooks, in his priorities, outlined ensuring service to communities through “fair access to credit, capital and financial services,” he focused less on community access to credit as envisioned through CRA (to low- and moderate-income [LMI] areas) and more on credit access to “lawful entities.”

“Fair access has come under attack,” Brooks stated. “Whether under the disreputable practice of ‘(Operation) Choke Point’ or under the guise of reputation risk, we should not tolerate lawful entities being denied access to our federal banking system based on their popularity among a powerful few.

“That is a dangerous and untenable practice that we will work to correct,” he vowed.

Among other things Brooks mentioned in his priorities were:

  • Specifying what the parameters of the “fintech charter” and other special purpose charters should be;
  • Working to clarify what “true lender” means, to “underscore that the terms of a lawfully made contract remain valid for the duration of that contract even if it is sold by a bank to another investor”;
  • Defending the agency’s authority to issue bank charters that “support companies’ ability to engage in the business of banking on a national scale, including taking deposits, lending money, or paying checks.”

Brian P. Brooks Statement on Becoming Acting Comptroller