At Hearing, Warren Calls Out Coordinated Smear Campaign Against Comptroller of the Currency Nominee Saule T. Omarova
Warren: “This is a vicious smear campaign – coordinated by Republicans who are doing the bidding of giant banks that want to keep gobbling up smaller competitors, want to keep ripping off their customers, and want to keep getting away with it.”
Washington, D.C. — Today, during a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called out Republican criticisms of Dr. Saule T. Omarova, the nominee to be Comptroller of the Currency, and made the case for her appointment. Senator Warren detailed that Republicans are doing the bidding of giant financial institutions who want to limit competition from community banks and block Dr. Omarova’s nomination.
In response to false Republican attacks that Dr. Omarova intends to nationalize the banking system, Dr. Omarova told Senator Warren that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) does not have the power to end private banking and to move all consumer deposits to a public ledger, and she would not support the OCC if it had this power. Dr. Omarova also confirmed that she believes in free markets.
In response to Senator Warren, Omarova called out the concerning trend of consolidation in the banking industry and reiterated her belief that banking regulators should use every tool they have — including significant fines and holding executives accountable — to ensure that banks don’t get away with repeatedly violating the law and harming businesses and consumers.
Transcript: Nomination Hearing of Dr. Saule T. Omarova to be Comptroller Of The Currency
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Senator Warren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Professor Omarova, I know that the giant banks object to your willingness to enforce the law to keep our system safe and that you might cut into big bank profits, so they—and their Republican buddies—have declared war on you. The attacks on your nomination have been vicious and personal. We've just seen them. Sexism. Racism. Pages straight out of Joe McCarthy’s 1950s red scare tactics. It is all there on full display. Welcome to Washington in 2021.
Now, one claim is that you intend to nationalize the banking system. So, let’s just get this nonsense out of the way.
Does the OCC have the power to end private banking and to move all consumer deposits to a public ledger?
Dr. Omarova: Absolutely not.
Senator Warren: If the OCC did have that power, is that something you would support?
Dr. Omarova: Absolutely not.
Senator Warren: And are you a capitalist who believes in free markets?
Dr. Omarova: Yes, I am.
Senator Warren: So, great. Now that we’ve put that on the record, I’d like to get to the real reason that your nomination has generated such fierce opposition, and I think it lies in what the OCC does have the power to do.
Professor Omarova, the OCC oversees a mix of giant banks and smaller community banks. Now, the giant banks are flourishing and growing larger by the day, and Big Tech companies like Facebook are trying to move in, while many of the smaller banks are getting wiped out. As Comptroller, how would you support community banks and ensure that they can continue to provide strong service to their customers and competition in the banking industry?
Dr. Omarova: Thank you, Senator. If confirmed as the Comptroller, I would make one of my priorities to take a much closer look and subject a much closer scrutiny the ongoing trend of consolidation in the banking industry that leaves many communities without meaningful access to banking services on the ground.
Senator Warren: Well, you know. Part of supporting community banks’ role in our economy involves a level playing field with their larger peers, and that means accountability for those big banks.
So, Professor Omarova, when a giant bank like Wells Fargo repeatedly breaks the law and cheats its customers, what do you believe our banking regulators should do?
Dr. Omarova: I believe that banking regulators should use the tools in their tool kit, to make sure that no bank, small or especially large, gets away with repeated violations of the law, especially when that hurts real families and real businesses on the ground. I think the fines should have a real bite. I think that executive compensation should be on the line for the big banks that continuously and repeatedly violate laws.
Senator Warren: Woah. Professor Omarova, I think I know why you're being attacked so viciously. These banks want to avoid accountability, and they certainly want to avoid personal liability for their executives. And they're willing to do whatever it takes to block you.
Opposition to Professor Omarova has nothing to do with her qualifications or her ability to do this job. Professor Omarova will be an honest cop on the beat. She will not grovel before powerful banks and Big Tech companies.
This is a vicious smear campaign – coordinated by Republicans who are doing the bidding of giant banks that want to keep gobbling up smaller competitors, want to keep ripping off their customers, and want to keep getting away with it. Wall Street feels threatened, so they have launched an ugly personal assault on a respected person who never sought the spotlight. It is disgusting, and anyone who participates in this malicious character assassination should be ashamed of themselves.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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