Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post

Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post
© Getty Images

President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE will nominate Cornell law professor Saule T. Omarova to be comptroller of the currency, the White House announced Thursday, tapping a fierce critic of big banks to lead a regulator with immense power over the industry.

If confirmed, Omarova would be the first woman and first person of color to serve as the full-time leader of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC regulates and supervises national banks to make sure they follow federal rules meant to keep the banking system stable and safe.

Omarova has closely studied financial regulation over more than decade as a professor and argued that major U.S. banks have grown too large and complex to adequately serve the needs of the public. She has also expressed concerns about the proliferation of cryptocurrencies and other financial technology platforms, along with skepticism about their potential benefits.

ADVERTISEMENT

Omarova has been a law professor since 2007, teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgetown University before joining Cornell and serving as director of its financial institutions and markets law program. Before joining academia, Omarova practiced law with Davis, Polk, & Wardwell, a prominent law firm, and served as a special advisor to Randal Quarles, now the Federal Reserve vice chair of supervision, when he was former President George W. Bush’s Treasury under secretary for Domestic Finance.

Omarova’s appointment elated liberals lawmakers who had urged Biden to nominate a Wall Street skeptic to the powerful banking post.

“Saule Omarova has spent her career working with both Republicans and Democrats on systemic financial stability issues and is well-versed in new financial technologies,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownWhen the Fed plays follow the leader, it steers us all toward inflation Which proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? Senate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents MORE (D-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. 

“Her experience as a policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia will allow her to work with stakeholders across our financial system to ensure the economy works for everyone, and to protect our economic recovery from the risky activities of Wall Street and other bad actors.”

Omarova can be confirmed in the Senate with a simple majority vote, but will likely need unanimous support from Democrats. Republicans, who are generally in favor of looser financial regulations, are expected to vote lockstep against her nomination and force Democrats to put up all 50 votes plus a tie-breaker from Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisObama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech Biden's safe-space CNN town hall attracts small audience, as poll numbers plummet MORE.

“I am concerned Professor Omarova will prioritize a progressive social agenda over the core mission of the OCC—supervising and managing risk in our financial system,” said Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryHouse Democrats scramble to save housing as Biden eyes cuts Congress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it Yellen calls for 'very destructive' debt limit to be abolished MORE (R-N.C.), top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.

“Our financial regulators must focus on pro-growth policies that foster innovation to build a robust and inclusive economic recovery, rather than Democrats’ obsession with vague social objectives.”