Politics & MoneyRegulatory

Brian Brooks takes over as Comptroller of the Currency, lays out plans for banking regulator

Brooks becomes acting comptroller

Just two months after joining the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as chief operating officer and first deputy comptroller, Brian Brooks has now ascended to the top job at the banking regulator.

On Friday, Brooks officially became the acting comptroller of the currency when Joseph Otting stepped down from the role.

Otting announced his departure last week, just one day after the OCC released its final rule on “strengthening and modernizing” the CRA, which requires banks to meet the credit needs of all communities they serve, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Brooks is new to the OCC, but knows both Otting and Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin well.

Brooks and Otting both previously worked with Mnuchin at OneWest Bank, which Mnuchin and his partners at Dune Capital Management formed after buying the remains of IndyMac Federal Bank from the FDIC in 2009. Mnuchin and his partners later sold OneWest to CIT Group in 2015

Otting served as the CEO of OneWest from 2010 until 2015, while Brooks served as OneWest’s vice chairman and chief legal officer.

Mnuchin spoke highly of Brooks last week when Otting announced his departure.

“I am confident that Brian will lead the agency effectively during this challenging time,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “He recognizes the importance of a robust federal banking system to the health and strength of the nation’s economy and has the skills and experience to succeed in this important role.”

As for Brooks, his first act as comptroller was to lay out his mission for the banking regulator, citing the recent challenges banks have faced in the wake of the pandemic and casting an eye to the future.

“I am deeply honored to serve my country as Acting Comptroller of the Currency and lead this important and prestigious agency during this challenging time,” Brooks said in a statement.

“Over the past several months, the federal banking system has been integral to the nation’s response to COVID-19. It has been a central means to deliver relief to businesses and consumers and has continued to function admirably under significant stress. Banks and savings associations entered this crisis well positioned to play this important role. They remain a source of strength for the economy and an engine of opportunity,” Brooks continued.

“The nation can rely on the federal banking system due in large part to the 3,600 men and women of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency who have maintained a flexible regulatory framework in which banks can evolve to meet the needs of their communities; rigorously examined banks to ensure their safe, sound, and fair operation; and when necessary exercised our authority to enforce corrective action,” Brooks said.

“An agency with a 157-year history understands COVID-19’s seemingly long shadow is temporary. While managing through its effects will take significant focus and effort, we must not lose sight that we aim toward a longer, brighter purpose,” Brooks added. “We should approach our work not just with an eye to the next year, but to ensure the federal banking system adapts to the changing needs of consumers, markets, and the nation for the next 50 or 100 years.”

To that end, Brooks laid out four priorities for the OCC moving forward, including:

  1. Build upon responsible innovation to help the banking system keep up with changes in the way American consumers and businesses manage their finances.
  2. Enhance the strength of the federal banking system by enhancing the scope and relevance of the national charter.
  3. Ensure banks serve their entire community through fair access to credit, capital, and financial services.
  4. Provide OCC employees engaging, rewarding, and challenging career opportunities.

According to Brooks, innovation is a “personal passion of mine.”

“The OCC can build on its foundation of innovation to provide banks and thrifts the regulatory certainty, the flexible framework, and oversight that allows them to evolve and capitalize on technology and innovation to deliver better products and services, to operate more efficiently, and to reduce risk in the system,” Brooks said.

“We should support banks’ use of new technology, products, and models that safely and fairly accelerate the velocity of money, create greater financial inclusion, and empower consumers and businesses with more control over their financial affairs.”

In closing, Brooks honored Otting for his service at the OCC and thanked Mnuchin for naming him acting comptroller.

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