What is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and How Does It Work?

2 mins

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is a regulatory institution that controls the federal banking system of the United States. It is an independent bureau of the U.S. Treasury.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency was established by the National Currency Act of 1863 to charter, regulate, and supervise all national banks and federal savings institutions in the United States. The objective of the OCC is to ensure that these banks "run in a safe and sound way," treat their clients fairly, and provide fair access to financial services, all while adhering to US laws and regulations.

The OCC is based in Washington, DC, but has offices in 60 cities across the United States. It also has a London office that is in charge of overseeing the foreign activities of U.S. banks.

 

What is the Role of the OCC?

The OCC also enforces anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation, identifying and investigating misconduct and suspicious activity across all banks and licenced branches as part of its goal to safeguard the safety and fairness of the U.S. financial system. As part of its role, the OCC:

  • Examines the banks that it is in charge of.
  • Approves or denies new charters and branches, as well as any changes in corporate banking structure.
  • Issues investment, lending, and other financial practices, laws and regulations, legal interpretations, and business decisions.
  • Takes legal action against banks that do not follow U.S. rules and regulations. This power includes the ability to fire officers and directors, negotiate changes to banking practices, issue cease-and-desist orders, and levy penalties.

 

The Mission of the OCC

The OCC's declared mission is to improve the US financial system by serving as "a source of knowledge and experience." The OCC's goal is to build a banking system that "benefits consumers, communities, businesses, and the U.S. economy" - and it takes steps to achieve that goal on a regular basis. The OCC, for example, established the Fintech Charter in 2018: the contentious policy permits Fintechs to apply for a banking licence and, if approved, operate in the same capacity as a regulated bank across state lines.

 

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