WASHINGTON May 4 Start-up lenders that reach
customers online should be able to choose between a federal or
state banking license as they grow, a leading U.S. banking
regulator said on Thursday as he prepares to step aside.
Consumers increasingly go online to manage their money and
some financial services start-ups, so-called "fintech"
companies, would like a national license for that business.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the leading
regulator for national banks, has promised to offer a fintech
charter. But state authorities have argued that is their job and
are suing the OCC.
The question of who will regulate the fintech business
should not hinder the industry, said Thomas Curry, the outgoing
head of the OCC.
"I don't think this is about turf," said Curry, who steps
down on Friday. "I think this is really about the strategic
direction of the banking industry."
Fintech companies do not lend from customer savings and
their money-managing tools are sometimes ahead of traditional
Regulators have scrambled to keep pace with the development
of online lenders and payment companies, which act like banks
but do not take in deposits.
Last week, an alliance of state banking regulators took its
case to federal court and asked that a judge block the OCC from
developing a federal charter.
The Conference of State Bank Supervisors said in a statement
that the OCC plan "is an unprecedented, unlawful expansion of
the chartering authority given to it by Congress."
Curry was appointed by former President Barack Obama and
completed his five-year term in early April.
Keith Noreika, a partner at law firm Simpson Thacher &
Bartlett LLP, will run the OCC on an interim basis starting
The OCC drew fire in September when Wells Fargo & Co
announced that rogue bank employees opened as many as 2 million
bank accounts without customer agreement.
Curry has said his agency should have detected that fraud
earlier. He has also said the agency's money-laundering controls
must be carefully calibrated.
In recent months, the OCC has told bank examiners to clamp
down on illegal transfers but not halt legal money transfers -
particularly to and from immigrant communities.
"I don't think we're struggling with this," Curry said of
recent memos, phone calls and speeches on anti-money laundering
policy. "Where we explain what our policies are and what our
approach is, the better off we are."
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Dan Grebler)