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Regulator shelves rule meant to force banks to serve oil, gun companies

Regulator shelves rule meant to force banks to serve oil, gun companies
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The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is shelving a controversial rule meant to prevent banks from rejecting corporate customers based solely on their industry.

The OCC announced Thursday that it would wait to publish its “Fair Access” rule in the Federal Register until a full-time comptroller can review it, preventing it from taking effect until President Biden’s eventual nominee assumes office.

The move comes roughly a week after the White House imposed a freeze on all rulemaking activity that began before Biden took office, though the OCC said the pause was the agency’s decision alone.

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Biden has not yet announced his pick for comptroller of the currency, but it is highly unlikely that his eventual nominee would move forward with a rule that has been universally condemned by Democrats.

The OCC on Jan. 14 finalized its Fair Access rule, which was proposed in November to protect oil, natural gas and firearms companies from being spurned by banks. A slew of major banks have backed away from financing oil and gas drilling projects and firearm manufacturers in recent years, citing climate change and several mass shootings.

Republicans applauded the OCC for taking action to protect such companies, some comparing their woes to the centuries of financial discrimination faced by people of color in the U.S.

Democrats and advocates for big banks — two groups rarely on the same page — condemned the proposal as unnecessary, intrusive and shortsighted.