Omarova Withdraws OCC Nomination

Dec 10, 2021Federal Regulation, News

More than two months after President Biden nominated Cornell University law professor Saule Omarova to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Omarova withdrew her nomination this week after facing resistance from both Republicans and moderate Democrats. The opposition was largely over her advocacy for a more dominant role of government in finance.

“I deeply value President Biden’s trust in my abilities and remain firmly committed to the Administration’s vision of a prosperous, inclusive, and just future for our country,” said Omarova in her withdrawal letter, according to Politico. “At this point in the process, however, it is no longer tenable for me to continue as a presidential nominee.”

Omarova would have overseen national banks if confirmed, but has often expressed concern about the size and influence of these banks. She suggested that the government play a larger role in lending in the private sector.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and an advocate of Omarova, issued a statement expressing his disdain at the pointed opposition she faced.

“Despite her unquestioned expertise and her bipartisan record, powerful interests distorted Professor Omarova’s views and writings,” Brown said. “In a relentless smear campaign reminiscent of red scare McCarthyism, they have shamefully attacked her family, her heritage, and her commitment to American ideals. I am disappointed that these spurious attacks and misrepresentations of Professor Omarova’s views were not resoundingly rejected in a bipartisan manner.”

“One thing is clear: we need regulators at the OCC and beyond who are not in the pockets of Wall Street—public servants who will ensure the economy works for everyone, and who will protect our economy from the risky activities of Wall Street and unregulated tech companies. I will continue to work with the Biden Administration to fill these posts that are critical to our economy,” he continued.

Omarova’s withdrawal leaves Michael Hsu, former Federal Reserve Official, as Acting Comptroller of the Currency. Former Treasury official Michael Barr, rumored to be Biden’s first candidate to lead the OCC, was not nominated due to backlash from progressive Democrats.

American Banker noted that according to Biden’s statement, he “accepted Saule Omarova’s request to withdraw her name from nomination” and will “make an announcement at a future date” for a new nominee.

Omarova was originally nominated on September 23. In October, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) voiced some concerns about the nomination, though he committed to giving her a fair hearing before he made a final decision. After a contentious nomination hearing on November 18, five Democratic Senators conveyed their opposition to her nomination, closing her pathway to confirmation. With unanimous Republican opposition in an evenly split Senate, even one Democratic defection meant her nomination could not go forward.

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