An independent bureau of the US Treasury, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is a regulatory organization which oversees the federal banking system of the United States.
Established by the National Currency Act of 1863, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency functions to charter, regulate, and supervise all the national banks and federal savings associations in the United States. The OCC’s mission is to ensure these institutions “operate in a safe and sound manner”, treat their customers fairly, and provide fair access to financial services – in compliance with US laws and regulations.
The OCC is headquartered in Washington DC, but holds offices in 60 US cities. It also maintains an office in London, which is responsible for overseeing the international activities of US banks.
What does the OCC do?
As part of its mission to ensure the safety and fairness of the US banking system, the OCC also enforces anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws – identifying and investigating misconduct and suspicious activity across all banks and licensed branches. In that capacity, the OCC:
- Examines the banks that it supervises.
- Approves and denies applications for new charters and branches – or any changes in corporate banking structure.
- Takes action against banks not in compliance with US laws and regulations. This authority extends to removing officers and directors, negotiating changes to banking practice, issuing cease and desist orders, and imposing penalties.
- Issues rules and regulations, legal interpretations, and corporate decisions regarding investments, lending, and other financial practices.
The OCC’s stated vision is to add value to the US banking system and to represent “a source of knowledge and expertise”. The OCC seeks to create a banking system which “benefits consumers, communities, businesses, and the US economy” – and takes regular action to achieve that ambition. In 2018, for example, the OCC introduced the Fintech Charter: the controversial initiative allows Fintechs to apply for a banking license and, if accepted, operate across state lines in the same capacity as a regulated bank.
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