29 June 2011

OCC Gives Another Monica to the Banks

How bad is this one?

It's so bad that even Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department finds it excessive:
The Treasury Department has unexpectedly allied with state regulators and consumer groups in their bid to force the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to dial back its preemption standards.

The Obama administration sent a letter to the OCC this week objecting to a proposal that said Dodd-Frank left preemption standards mostly unchanged. But Treasury said the OCC was ignoring Congressional intent.

"Although Congress adopted a specific preemption standard in Dodd-Frank, the OCC's rule articulates a preemption standard that is broader than the language of the Dodd-Frank standard," Treasury General Counsel George Madison wrote to the OCC.

It is relatively unusual for federal agencies to weigh in on another regulators' proposal, but even more rare in this case. The OCC is nominally a bureau of Treasury, but the administration has only limited oversight of the agency.

At issue is language used by the OCC to preempt state consumer protection laws. The agency has said it can preempt laws that "obstruct, impair or condition" the business of banking.

But those words were not part of the 1996 Barnett Supreme Court decision, which Dodd-Frank said should be the preemption standard.

In a proposal issued May 26, the OCC dropped the controversial language, but still said its previous rulings stood intact.

In his letter, Treasury's Madison said that did not make sense.

"The proposed rule validates all prior preemption determinations, including those based on its deleted 'obstruct, impair or condition' standard," Madison wrote. "In our view, this position is contrary to Dodd-Frank."

Madison said the OCC was trying to ignore the law.
(Emphasis mine)

The fact here is that the head of the OCC's term ended some time ago, and Obama has allowed the position of the Comptroller of the Currency to remain unfilled, he has not even proposed a successor, and allowed Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh to continue in office when a recess appointment could put someone in place who might actually be interested in, well, you know, regulating.

Seriously, recess appoint someone who is not a corrupt sellout.  Having the Treasury department call them names is not a proactive solution.


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