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U.S. Treasury Secretary says Trump has approved new bank regulator

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump has made his selection for the next full-time head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Testifying before lawmakers on Thursday, Mnuchin did not name the person tapped for the job, but said the decision had been made and the individual is going through background checks before a formal announcement.

The comptroller position is currently being filled in an acting capacity by Keith Noreika, an attorney whom Mnuchin named as interim head earlier in May. Noreika replaced Thomas Curry, who had served as comptroller under President Obama.

"We actually have someone the president has approved that is going through the FBI vetting process," Mnuchin said. "This is a time-consuming process."

Joseph Otting, who formerly worked as a banking executive at OneWest bank, which Mnuchin once headed, is believed to be the favorite for the position.

Mnuchin said that an OCC pick had been made in response to criticism from Democrats, who objected to Trump installing a new bank regulator on an interim basis who was not confirmed by the Senate.

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland questioned whether this approach was to skirt Senate approval. But Mnuchin insisted Noreika was put in place simply to get someone in the post while a permanent nominee was selected.

The Comptroller's office writes money-laundering rules, bank charters and closely monitors banks' lending activities. (Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Dan Grebler)