Holding Out a Helping Hand to the Banksters

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The office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is a bureau within the Department of the Treasury that is the main institution responsible for regulating national banks.

According to the OCC’s website, the bureau has “played a vital role in assuring the health and well-being of the nation’s financial system” by having “set and achieved the highest standards of public service.”

“Under the direction of the Comptroller of the Currency,” a 2008 OCC document informs us, “the national banking system” has “acquired a reputation for safety and soundness that [has] inspired confidence from the banking public.”

Whatever confidence the national banking system may have enjoyed in 2008, however, largely turned into resentment as a result of the financial crisis that began to unfold that year.

Donald Trump was able to exploit resentment into a successful bid for the presidency in part by promising to “drain the swamp” of corporate and financial influence in Washington. But so far his approach to “draining” the swamp has been to flood it with toxic waste. A prime example is his pick for acting head of the OCC: Keith Noreika.

ProPublica describes Noreika as “a prominent Washington attorney” who “has made a career out of representing banks as they sought to fight back consumer-friendly state regulations and class-action lawsuits accusing banks of deceptive practices.”

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Typically, when a comptroller leaves, the position is filled temporarily by a career staff member, who does the job until they are formally replaced by a nominee approved by the Senate. Noreika, however, has no OCC experience.

Noreika does have a lot of experience with the banking industry — although IT may not be in keeping with OCC’s stated mission of “public service” and “inspiring confidence in the banking system.”

As an attorney, he successfully defended the banks’ ability to charge ATM fees to non-customers, and even to charge non-customers for cashing checks drawn on the banks’ own accounts, when these were under…

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