Under fire from Sen. Phil Gramm, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency admitted Wednesday that bank examiners were improperly involved in preparing a list of banks that support the Community Reinvestment Act.
The Treasury Department in mid-January asked the OCC for a list to give reporters, with names of banks that support CRA. Though not an unusual request, involving examiners violated the firewall between the agency's policymaking and supervisory functions, said OCC spokesman Robert M. Garsson Jr.
Mr. Garsson said the examiners only notified banks as a courtesy that they were on the list. BridgeNews broke the story Tuesday.
But Sen. Gramm, upon fielding a complaint from a bank last week, wrote the Treasury to complain that the OCC had abused its authority.
Mr. Garsson said Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr. intervened last Friday when he learned what had happened. "Sen. Gramm is raising some perfectly legitimate questions," Mr. Garsson said. "The Comptroller is troubled by what happened as well."
Mr. Hawke was sworn in as comptroller on Dec. 8. However, he had gotten a recess appointment and still needs Senate confirmation to secure a full five-year term. The Senate Banking Committee, under Sen. Gramm as chairman, is to vote on his nomination Feb. 11.
"The senator certainly is interested to know what he (Mr. Hawke) personally will do to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Christi Harlan, the Senate Banking Committee's spokeswoman. "I don't think it's a nomination killer."