U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is vetting Cornell banking law professor Saule Omarova to take the leading role at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), The New York Times reported on Friday (Aug. 6), citing sources.
Omarova — an outspoken critic of cryptocurrencies — could be nominated for the OCC role before the close of 2021 or in early 2022, per the NYT sources.
A native of Kazakhstan, Omarova is not a White House newcomer — she served under the administration of President George W. Bush in the Treasury Department as a special adviser for regulatory policy. Prior to that role, Omarova spent five years at the “white shoe” law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Her low-profile work often focused on banks’ risk of entering the cryptocurrency space — which, although growing exponentially, is still seen as an era akin to the Wild West. Omarova has argued that banks could conduct crypto trading outside the perimeter of the Federal Reserve, per the NYT.
If appointed as the OCC chief, Omarova could move to have the agency granted more control over the alternate business units that banks like J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup are developing. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also wants to have oversight of crypto markets.
As OCC head, Omarova is expected to take a deeper dive into how FinTechs are regulated, especially in light of the fact that the challenger or neo banks are operating with privileges like legacy finance institutions (FIs), but without the same restrictions. Digital banks, as “non-banks,” are currently not under the OCC’s oversight umbrella.
In a recent interview with MSNBC, Omarova said her research showed that the public is not privy to much about banks unless something goes sideways.
“We suddenly become the janitor,” Omarova said in the television interview. “We’re never allowed to sit at the table when decisions are made upfront.”