Trade group seeks underlying data behind OCC’s ‘fair access’ proposal

WASHINGTON — A trade group representing the nation’s largest banks requested data that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency used to craft its “fair access” proposal.

The Bank Policy Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday asking the OCC to present its rationale for the agency’s plan to penalize institutions that decline to do business with politically controversial industries. The trade group claimed in a press release that the proposed rulemaking “relies on false notions about the role of larger banks in the economy.”

“The OCC’s fair access proposal rests on a series of conclusory statements and assertions that are not backed up by any factual support or analysis,” said John Court, general counsel at the Bank Policy Institute, in the press release. “We disagree with these statements and assertions, and therefore we are asking the OCC in this FOIA request to produce the data, evidence and analysis that underpins them.”

The OCC’s proposed “fair access” rule, which applies only to banks with greater than $100 billion of assets, follows decisions by several large banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and TD Bank Group, to cut ties with firearm companies and energy sector firms.

The OCC claimed in its proposed rule that it had found instances in which banks made decisions to cut ties “based on criteria unrelated to safe and sound banking practices,” and that in certain cases the moves appeared to stem from “personal beliefs and opinions on matters of substantive policy that are more appropriately the purview of state and Federal legislatures.”

Last week, BPI and other trade groups, including the American Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association, and Financial Services Forum, requested a 30-day extension to the public comment period provided by the OCC for the rulemaking, currently set for 45 days. The OCC subsequently denied that request.

OCC spokesperson Bryan Hubbard said in a statement that the agency would “look forward to the BPI’s comment on the proposed rule, and we will process the FOIA request in accordance with the law.”

“As has been widely reported in the press, we requested supervisory data from large banks regarding their service to a variety of industries. Their direct responses helped inform our thinking,” Hubbard added.

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