Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

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The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), established in 1863, is a bureau of the Treasury Department. OCC charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks. It also supervises the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the OCC has four district offices plus an office in London to supervise the international activities of national banks.[1]


The OCC is headed by the Comptroller, John C. Dugan, who is appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a five-year term. The Comptroller also is a director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and NeighborWorks® America.[2]


A staff of over 1,800 bank examiners performs the statutorily required regular examinations of more than 1900 banks subject to the Comptroller's supervision. The Chief Counsel of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) supervises approximately 130 attorneys in the Washington headquarters and in the four District offices. The OCC is in the forefront of contemporary issues in the financial services industry, developing banking regulations and legislation to modernize banking law, and streamlining regulatory processes. The OCC is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury engaged in the supervision of the national banking system. The Law Department, which is managed centrally by the Chief Counsel's office, consists of seven legal practice areas located in the Washington headquarters office and general practice offices in each of the four district office locations.[3]


The OCC has specific objectives:

  • To ensure the safety and soundness of the national banking system.
  • To foster competition by allowing banks to offer new products and services.
  • To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OCC supervision, including reducing regulatory burden.
  • To ensure fair and equal access to financial services for all Americans. [4]

Regulatory authority

The OCC's nationwide staff of examiners conducts on-site reviews of national banks and provides sustained supervision of bank operations. The agency issues rules, legal interpretations, and corporate decisions concerning banking, bank investments, bank community development activities, and other aspects of bank operations.

National bank examiners supervise domestic and international activities of national banks and perform corporate analyses. Examiners analyze a bank's loan and investment portfolios, funds management, capital, earnings, liquidity, sensitivity to market risk, and compliance with consumer banking laws, including the Community Reinvestment Act. They review the bank's internal controls, internal and external audit, and compliance with law. They also evaluate bank management's ability to identify and control risk.

In regulating national banks, the OCC has the power to:

  • Examine the banks.
  • Approve or deny applications for new charters, branches, capital, or other changes in corporate or banking structure.
  • Take supervisory actions against banks that do not comply with laws and regulations or that otherwise engage in unsound banking practices. The agency can remove officers and directors, negotiate agreements to change banking practices, and issue cease and desist orders as well as civil money penalties.
  • Issue rules and regulations governing bank investments, lending, and other practices.[5]

Banker Education

OCC seeks to support our national banks by being a leading source of regulatory knowledge sharing for the financial services industry. We offer educational opportunities to our national banks and others in the financial industry. Currently, these educational opportunities are workshops led by instructors and web conferences. Our educational programs focus on critical industry issues and trends. At the same time, we strive to produce high quality and cost-effective programs that have immediate, practical application.[6]

Financial crisis

OCC has gained a reputation in providing lax oversight over banks prior to the financial crisis. [7] The OCC failed to protect consumer interests. [8] In fact, the head of the OCC, John C. Dugan has come under fire for protecting banks.

Dugan has worked hard to protect banks every step of the way. "WHEN Darrell McGraw, the attorney general of West Virginia, decided to sue Capital One Bank in 2005, alleging credit card abuses, his office expected to face a phalanx of high-priced defense lawyers. What it didn’t expect was that Capital One would get a hand from the federal government. As Mr. McGraw tells it, his legal team was thwarted every step of the way by Capital One and the O.C.C." [9] The New York Times article goes on to say: "For more than a decade, the O.C.C. has beaten back state attorneys general who have tried to enforce state consumer laws against national banks, arguing that federal laws pre-empt those of the states: the O.C.C. has stopped Georgia from enforcing predatory lending laws, intervened in New York’s effort to investigate discriminatory lending and opposed a campaign by New England states to curb gift card fees." [10]

Furthermore, Dugan does not deny the active opposition to states seeking to punish banks. He claims the state actions against banks could "cripple national banking" and have a bad impact on consumers. [11] "Consumer advocates say they remain underwhelmed by Mr. Dugan’s efforts. “It’s hard to get help from an agency that thinks the banks are always right,” said Travis B. Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America." [12]

With Dugan's term expiring in August 2010, the Obama Administration is contemplating his replacement. Michael Barr seems to be the front runner for appointment as chair of the OCC. [13]

Contact details

Comptroller of the Currency
Administrator of National Banks
Washington, DC 20219
Phone: OCC Customer Assistance Group in English or Spanish, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST. Call toll-free 1-800-613-6743 TDD: 713-658-0340
Email: publicaffairs3 AT

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Information from About page of OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  2. Information from About page of OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  3. Information from Law and Regulatory page of OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  4. Information from About page of OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  5. Information from About page of OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  6. Information from OCC website, accessed Feb 17, 2010
  7. ROBERT CYRAN and JAMES PETHOKOUKIS, "Comptroller Wanted,", "New York Times," July 11, 2010.
  8. Id.
  9. Andrew Martin,"Comptroller of Currency Often Sides with Banks, Critics Say,", New York Times, March 26, 2010.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Id.
  13. Ryan Grim, "Elizabeth Warren to Head Consumer Protection Bureau,", "Huffington Post," July 12, 2010.

External resources

External articles