Banking and Finance Law Daily Wrap Up, DIRECTORS, OFFICERS AND EMPLOYERS—OCC nominee Omarova pledges to support community banks, (Nov 19, 2021)

By Nora Macaluso

If confirmed, Omarova would be the first woman, first person of color, and first immigrant to head the agency.

Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, said her top priority as head of the OCC would be to “guarantee a fair and competitive market” for small and mid-sized banks and the c ...

By Nora Macaluso

If confirmed, Omarova would be the first woman, first person of color, and first immigrant to head the agency.

Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, said her top priority as head of the OCC would be to “guarantee a fair and competitive market” for small and mid-sized banks and the communities they serve. Omarova said her experience—which includes private law practice, government service, and academia—taught her “how financial ‘sausage’ is made and how that can lead to devastating financial crises.” That’s why, she said in remarks prepared for delivery at her Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing, she has focused her academic work on “safeguarding the stability and resilience of our financial system.”

“In the 2008 crisis, I saw what happens when powerful market players generate excessive risk and leverage outside of regulators’ view–and leave the American taxpayer to foot the bill when the speculative boom turns bust,” Omarova said. If confirmed, she said, she will ensure a market “where small and mid-size banks that invest in their neighbors’ homes and small businesses can thrive, and where every community—regardless of wealth, geography, or history—has access to safe and affordable financial services.”

Community banks, “the true heart of American banking,” are vanishing, even as competitors like technology companies like Facebook that “do not play by the same rules” enter the market, Omarova said. “These issues are deeply personal to me,” she told the panel. “Having grown up in an oppressive state-run system, with no free enterprise and no economic opportunity for people like me, I have a unique appreciation for our dynamic and diverse markets. It is what made my life and success possible, and for that I am forever grateful.” Omarova added that she would “serve the American public with the utmost dedication and integrity, and I will do everything in my power to protect and strengthen the safe and stable banking system that makes America work.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the panel’s ranking Republican and a critic of Omarova, reiterated his dim view of the nominee in his opening remarks. “I’ve never seen a more radical nominee to be a federal regulator,” he said. Toomey said Omarova has put forward ideas that “amount to a socialist manifesto for American financial services,” such as price controls and government allocation of resources. “In my view, Prof. Omarova’s policy views are too radical, and preserving the prosperity that our free-market economy makes possible is too important, to make her our nation’s top banking regulator,” Toomey added.

Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) accused Toomey and other Republicans of distorting Omarova’s record and attempting to “turn a qualified woman into a Marxist boogeyman.” In his prepared opening remarks Brown said, “Ms. Omarova is one of the most qualified nominees ever for this job.” Brown characterized her nomination as “historic,” since she would be the first woman, first person of color, and first immigrant to head the OCC. “From growing up in the Soviet Union, to escaping to build a new life here, to enduring this last month of personal attacks with dignity, Professor Omarova has demonstrated the strength and independence that she’ll need to be a fair, impartial, and tough Comptroller,” Brown said. “She has both the private industry and the public policy experience to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis.”

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