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White House set to name top regulator to kickstart rollback of Obama-era bank rules

The statue of Albert Gallatin stands outside the U.S. Department of the Treasury building in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The statue of Albert Gallatin stands outside the U.S. Department of the Treasury building in Washington, D.C.

The White House is expected to name Keith Noreika as the interim head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, according to two people familiar with the decision, as the administration seeks to roll back sweeping financial regulations adopted under President Barack Obama.

Noreika is expected technically to take the No. 2 job at the agency, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. But current Comptroller Thomas Curry is expected to step down, leaving Noreika as the OCC's acting leader. Curry's term officially ended April 9, but he is able to continue to serve until a replacement is named.

Noreika is a veteran Republican financial attorney with the Washington office of Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett. He was the lead regulatory attorney on TD Bank's acquisition of Scottrade and has helped multinational banks comply with the Dodd-Frank law passed after the 2008 financial crisis.

In a speech Wednesday before the Independent Community Bankers of America, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the administration would announce an interim appointment at the OCC later in the day. He also said a candidate for vice chair of supervision at the Federal Reserve has been approved by the White House and is undergoing additional processing. And he said that the administration is "close" on filling the two other vacant Fed positions, including one reserved for community bankers.

The administration is still planning to nominate a more permanent leader of the OCC, according to a person with direct knowledge of the process. The person said Joseph Otting, who worked closely with Mnuchin during his time at OneWest bank, had been cleared by the White House. However, with Senate confirmation likely to take months, the person said the administration intends to appoint Noreika to the interim post in order to move more quickly in reversing Obama's policies.

In February, President Donald Trump ordered the Treasury Department to review all financial regulations and report back within 120 days. As the administration's legislative agenda has stalled in Congress, the White House is increasingly relying on deregulation to advance the president's priorities.

"We do believe in regulations. So we are not trying to go to a world where there are no regulations," Mnuchin said Wednesday. "But we do believe in proper regulations."

Correction: This story was revised to correct the spelling of Thacher.