WASHINGTON — Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting on Thursday blasted a letter from seven Senate Democrats criticizing his agency for not implementing recommendations for large-bank supervision in the wake of the Wells Fargo cross-selling scandal.

“I was disturbed that the senators would be reckless — and I use the word reckless — in their assessment without the information to make an informed statement,” Otting said. “We are preparing our response to the senators that corrects the record and misrepresentations created by the letter, and I would hope that future dialogue could be fact-based.”

The senators, who included Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senate Banking Committee ranking member Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said they had "serious concerns" that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has yet to implement the April 2017 recommendations of the OCC’s Office of Enterprise Governance and the Ombudsman. The ombudsman had called for supervision of the largest banks to be strengthened and for more effective elevation of potential issues to be put in place, the letter said.

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting
"We are preparing our response to the senators that corrects the record and misrepresentations created by the letter, and I would hope that future dialogue could be fact-based," OCC head Joseph Otting said. Bloomberg News

Wells Fargo's "wide-ranging misconduct, which harmed millions of customers around the country, underscores the importance of timely, effective, and probing supervision not only for Wells Fargo, but for all large banks,” the letter said. “The review recommends the adoption of several initiatives to enhance complaint and whistleblower analysis and follow-up, strengthen supervisory communication and institutional accountability, and ensure systemic root causes of risk are identified and addressed at both the supervised bank and throughout the industry at-large.”

In addition to Warren and Brown, the letter was signed by Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

Otting, who spoke on a conference call with reporters related to the publication of the OCC's Semiannual Risk Perspective, did not elaborate on which assertions in the letter he viewed to be incorrect, but an OCC spokesman said that the comptroller’s response letter would be released “shortly.”

Otting has sparred with Senate Democrats before. Some who had opposed his confirmation over his tenure at OneWest had described the bank as a “foreclosure mill” in a November letter and said the then-nominee was “highly unqualified for this job.”

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