OCC Chief Plans Exit While Finishing Rule Forcing Oil, Gun Loans

Brian Brooks is planning to step down as acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Thursday as he works to finish a controversial banking rule that has riled Wall Street and Democratic lawmakers alike.

Brooks, who has been nominated to serve a full term by President Donald Trump, is leaving after eight months as acting comptroller, the OCC said Wednesday. He was elevated to the top job after Joseph Otting left the agency in May.

Early in his tenure at OCC, Brooks joined other agency chiefs in formulating a regulatory response to limit economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The former Coinbase Inc. executive drew more attention for shepherding financial technology firms toward charters, opening up banking to the use of digital currency and — more recently — a proposal to bar lenders from discriminating against businesses deemed undesirable. He has said he will finish that rule before he exits.

Wall Street hascriticized the OCC for the unusually short comment period provided for the “fair access” rule and for what bank lobbyists claim is a dubious legal basis for it. Some Democratic lawmakers have argued that it will force lenders to do business with industries they’d otherwise consider too risky.

Like his predecessor Joseph Otting, Brooks shared a history with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, all of them having worked in top roles at OneWest Bank Group. Brooks also had prior experience in Washington, having served in a senior position at Fannie Mae.

Longtime OCC official Blake Paulson, a senior deputy comptroller who is the current chief operating officer, is in line to fill in as acting head of the agency until President-elect Joe Biden nominates a candidate to become permanent comptroller.

Brooks said in the Wednesday statement he’s proud to have led the agency in “extraordinary times” and that Paulson will be a “stable, capable hand.”

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