Resistance is mounting to United States President Joe Biden’s reported plans to tap a staunch banking and crypto critic to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The proposed nomination of law professor Saule Omarova to head the federal bank regulatory agency has raised eyebrows in political and financial circles, as she is widely seen as anti-crypto and anti-big banks.
Senator Ted Cruz has become the latest crypto ally to speak out, claiming that her decisions, if nominated, could change the future of the industry in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Not only is Saule Omarova, Biden’s pick to lead the OCC, a threat to our traditional economy, she also wants to regulate crypto into oblivion. Crypto faces future-defining government regulations. This nomination needs to be stopped.”
A number of big banks and banking associations are also against the nomination, with the American Bankers Association debating whether to publicly fight the decision. ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols said, “We have serious concerns about her ideas for fundamentally restructuring the nation’s banking system,” in a statement on Friday.
Ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Pat Toomey also spoke out in opposition of the nomination last week, stating that he has “serious reservations,” given her “extreme leftist ideas.”
Rebeca Rainey, president and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said that Omarova “would displace locally-based community banking and restrict economic growth in local communities,” according to reports.
The OCC oversees America’s banking giants such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citi Group, and would also encompass aspects of the crypto industry.
Omarova, who has previously said she wanted to “end banking as we know it,” is expected to enforce stricter rules. She has also claimed that the rise of cryptocurrencies is “benefiting mainly the dysfunctional financial system we already have.”
She shares views with anti-crypto lawmakers such as Senator Elizabeth Warren in that digital assets threaten to destabilize the economy, according to Bloomberg. For her part, Warren stated that the nomination was “tremendous news” and looked forward to heavier regulations.
The OCC has morphed from one of the Treasury’s most crypto-forward agencies into one that changed direction under subsequent leadership. Brian Brooks, former head of Coinbase’s legal team, joined the OCC in March 2020 and paved the way for legislation allowing banks to custody crypto.
In January, the banking regulator told national banks that they could run independent nodes for distributed ledger networks such as stablecoins. However, the tone has since changed. On Sept. 21, Michael Hsu, acting head of the OCC, warned that decentralized finance products are similar to those that catalyzed the global financial crisis in 2008.