OCC monitoring Wells CEO search; CFPB enforcement chief to leave

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Still watching
Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting “said he remains disappointed with Wells Fargo” and that his agency “plans to keep close tabs” on the bank’s search for a new CEO and “will vet” that person. Otting’s appearance before the Senate Banking Committee turned testy when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., accused the OCC of not doing enough to rein in the bank, which Otting strongly denied (see Quotable, below). Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

At the same hearing, Otting, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Jelena McWilliams, and Randall Quarles, the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman for supervision, “declined to express concern about the prospect of large bank mergers,” such as the pending combination of BB&T and SunTrust. “Competition in the banking industry is as good as competition anywhere,” Quarles said in response to a question from Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the panel’s ranking Democrat.

Going
Eric Blankenstein, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top enforcement official, plans to leave his post at the end of the May, eight months after “drawing fire” for writing blog posts 15 years ago that were deemed racist. Sen. Brown criticized CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger for not firing Blankenstein. “Allowing him to resign is a serious moral and managerial failure that sends a signal to consumers that the CFPB will look the other way when it comes to discrimination,” Brown said. Blankenstein acknowledged writing the blogs and apologized last September, but vowed to stay on the job. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, American Banker

Reservations accepted
American Express agreed to buy Resy Network, a restaurant reservation website and mobile app. The credit card company “has been building out its portfolio of digital services in recent years that are meant to bring cardholders additional perks.” Wall Street Journal, New York Times

Wall Street Journal

AML pact
Financial regulators in eight Nordic and Baltic countries, which have been the center of at least two major money laundering scandals, have agreed to share more information in an effort to combat financial crimes. “The move is the latest joint effort by financial regulators and banks across the globe to improve their anti-money-laundering compliance,” the paper says. Swedbank, formerly the largest bank in the Baltics, and Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, have both been accused of laundering billions of dollars of Russian money.

More than a favor
JPMorgan Chase’s former vice chairwoman of Asia investment banking was charged by Hong Kong’s anticorruption agency with trying to bribe the chairman of a logistics company by offering to get his son a job at the bank in return for IPO work.

Financial Times

Manipulated
The European Union fined five big international banks — Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and MUFG — a collective €1.07 billion for manipulating the foreign exchange market for 11 currencies, “drawing a line under global regulatory investigations into the behavior of their traders. EU officials found that two separate cartels used chat rooms to share information about customers’ orders, prices and other trading activities” in order to manipulate currency prices in spot markets between 2007 to 2013.

New York Times

It's only money
Recent events at Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and a number of other companies call into “question whether large penalties imposed on companies deter them from future bad behavior. The answer appears to be ‘no,’” the paper’s White Collar Watch column says. “All that suggests companies have little to worry about from government investigations and penalties that may be assessed.” Whether Sen. Warren’s recent proposal to jail corporate executives for negligently permitting or failing to prevent crime at their companies “will gain any traction in Congress is an open question, but it would certainly get the attention of chief executives if they discover problems inside the company.”

Quotable

No one has been tougher on Wells Fargo than myself. No one has been more outspoken.” — Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting

“People all across this country were scammed and squeezed by Wells Fargo ... and the OCC never uttered a peep about the executives who were leading this.” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

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