Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin named a banking lawyer to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on a temporary basis, removing an Obama administration holdover from one of the U.S.’s top financial regulators.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Keith Noreika was appointed acting comptroller, the Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday. The decision means Thomas Curry, who has led the OCC since 2012, will leave the agency at the end of the week.
“Keith Noreika has deep experience in helping banks operate in a safe and sound manner, provide fair access to financial services, and provide credit needed for business expansion and job growth,” Mnuchin said in a statement. Noreika is being brought into the agency as “first deputy comptroller” and simultaneously elevated to acting comptroller, according to the statement.
President Donald Trump still has to choose a permanent leader for the OCC, an agency that gets less attention than the Federal Reserve but wields enormous regulatory authority over most of the biggest U.S. banks. Unlike the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the OCC is run by a single head who can act unilaterally on regulation and supervision. Though potential candidates have been discussed by the Trump administration, the process to nominate a permanent comptroller has been slow.
Curry’s term expired last month, so the administration was free to replace him. His departure is unlikely to be lamented by Wall Street bankers, who faced tougher rules, unprecedented fines and a “heightened standards” regime during his tenure.
“Being able to run an agency that has such a wide reach and impact has been important to me,” Curry said in an interview, calling the job the highlight of his career. “I hope that I left it a better agency.”
The former Massachusetts state regulator, who plans to return home to Boston, came to the agency when it was beginning to implement Dodd-Frank Act provisions that changed the way big banks do business. Curry also worked to highlight the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of U.S. banks and spent much of his time setting up the OCC as a future regulator for financial technology firms, though state regulators have accused him of overstepping his authority in that area.