For big banks, breaking the rules is a trade secret

In the Trump era, we may expect financial regulators to not regulate. But we don’t expect them to regulate, find wrongdoing, and then conspire with the wrongdoers to cover it up. But that seems to be what’s going on at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees federally chartered banks.

President Trump’s handpicked head of the OCC is Joseph Otting, former chief executive of OneWest Bank. Otting has decided to run interference for his CEO buddies, concealing evidence of a potential replay of the Wells Fargo fake account scandal.

Earlier this month, Otting’s office was forced to reveal some basic findings from an OCC review of sales practices at more than 40 large and midsize banks, triggered after Wells Fargo admitted to opening millions of accounts without customer consent. Thomas Curry, President Obama’s OCC chief, initiated the review, and Otting completed it in December.

Since then, OCC had said only that it found no “systemic issues.” But in fact OCC did unearth examples of other banks opening unauthorized accounts. In fact, it flagged 252 “matters requiring attention” and five “industry-wide” issues. I’m using frustratingly vague terms like “other banks” and “industry-wide issues” because nobody outside the the OCC knows which banks were cited, or for what behavior, or whether any were penalized.

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