U.S. President Joe Biden has finally revealed his pick to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Biden nominated Saule Omarova on Thursday, a former policy advisor to the Treasury Department, whose strong criticism for big banks and digital currencies is already causing panic among some of Wall Street’s biggest names.
Aside from working with the Treasury during President George W. Bush’s administration, Omarova has served as a banking lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell and an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina. She currently serves as a professor at Cornell University Law School.
While formally announcing Omarova’s nomination, the White House described her as “one of the country’s leading academic experts on issues related to regulation of systemic risk and structural trends in financial markets.”
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Omarova, who was born and raised in Kazakhstan, will become the first woman and non-white to head the OCC.
“I am deeply honored to be nominated for this role in President Biden’s administration. If confirmed, I will work hard to make sure that our banks remain stable, strong and serve the needs of the American people,” she stated in a statement sent to the New York Times.
Omarova’s nomination is expected to trigger a contentious Senate fight over her confirmation. As she is expected to receive support from the left, with Senate Banking Committee chairman Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, urging his committee to confirm her.
“She will work to ensure the economy works for everyone, and to protect our economic recovery from the risky activities of Wall Street and other bad actors,” Brown stated.
However, the right is not as enthused with Omarova. Senator Pat Toomey, the most senior Republican in the committee, described her as having “extreme leftist ideas.”
The banking fraternity is also expected to lobby strongly against her. Omarova has long expressed her disdain for the power that big banks have. Earlier this year, she told Politico, “…large financial institutions hold so much power now and they move so much money through their own channels that it is effectively impossible through just rules and some enforcement to really shape what it is they’re doing.”
The digital currency industry could be in for a rough ride if Omarova takes over the OCC, an office that polices all top banks in the United States. While the previous office holder Brian Brooks was quite pro-Crypto, his predecessor could bring some very restrictive regulations.
Brooks went on to lead Binance.US, but only for a few months. He resigned, citing “differences over strategic direction,” after just three months at the helm. Reports however revealed that he stepped down after he found that Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao was unwilling to let him put in place measures that would have made the U.S. subsidiary compliant with the rule of law.
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