WASHINGTON — A group of House Republicans is asking Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry to slow down on the creation of a fintech charter.

The move signals growing lawmaker resistance to the plan, which was opposed by two prominent Senate Democrats earlier this year.

"In light of the importance and complexity of the issue, the OCC should not rush this decision," said a letter signed by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., along with 33 other House Republicans.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's interest in creating a fintech charter first emerged last March, when the agency put out a white paper asking a number of questions about what it termed "responsible innovation." In a December speech, Curry announced he would allow fintech companies to apply for a limited-purpose charter, calling for a new round of public comment. The details of the fintech charter are to be laid out soon in a separate policy statement.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
If the OCC "proceeds in haste, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress will examine the OCC's actions and, if appropriate, overturn them," said a letter from Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., and others. Bloomberg News

Critics have said the OCC's strategy had not been as transparent as the ordinary rulemaking process, because the public had not had an opportunity to comment about the specifics of the initiative, which remain to be announced.

"We are concerned ... with recent reports indicating that the OCC will proceed with creating the special charter in the form of a supplement to the OCC's licensing manual for banks, without providing the details of the charter or an opportunity for comment," the lawmakers said in their letter, dated Friday.

They proceeded to urge Curry to "provide a full and fair opportunity for stakeholders to see the details of the special charter, solicit feedback, and allow the incoming Comptroller the opportunity to assess" the initiative.

The lawmakers even threatened Curry, whose term is set to expire next month. If the OCC "proceeds in haste," they said, "please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress will examine the OCC's actions and, if appropriate, overturn them."

The letter's top signatories included Republican Reps. Randy Hutlgreen, of Illinois, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Bill Huizenga of Michigan and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri. The OCC declined to comment on the letter.

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Lalita Clozel

Lalita Clozel covers fintech regulation, anti-money-laundering, cybersecurity and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in American Banker's Washington bureau.