Rep. Marge Roukema said Wednesday that she is "shocked" by reports that the White House used national bank examiners to "lobby" banks on the Community Reinvestment Act, and she vowed hold a hearing.

"The OCC's independence has clearly been undermined by this episode and calls into question its ability to withstand political pressures," said Rep. Roukema, chairwoman of House Banking's financial institutions subcommittee.

The New Jersey Republican was responding to a yearlong study released Sept. 16 by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tex. According to that report, the OCC improperly used 36 examiners to help the Clinton administration collect the names of bankers who support CRA. Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr. confirmed the study's findings, but was cleared of responsibility by Sen. Gramm. (The Senate Banking Committee is expected to vote on Mr. Hawke's appointment to a full five-year term today.)

Rep. Roukema said the use of examiners for political purposes bolsters arguments that the independent Federal Reserve Board -- not the OCC -- should supervise any new nonbank activities permitted to banks under financial reform legislation.

Like Sen. Gramm, she said the episode also raises questions about whether the OCC and the Office of Thrift Supervision, both part of the Treasury Department, should be separated from the Treasury and made independent. A date for the hearing has not been set.

-- Scott Barancik

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