Republican lawmakers have asked the Treasury Department's inspector general to investigate whether the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's policies are encouraging banks to cut ties with entire lines of business or banks in other countries.
"Financial institutions have made clear to us that this 'de-risking' trend is very real, and is at least in part the result of actions taken by [the] OCC's regulatory supervisory, examination, or other staff to influence a bank's decision to exit a line of business or to terminate a banking relationship," said a letter dated Tuesday and signed by 11 members of the House Financial Services Committee.
The letter, which was posted online by the American Bankers Association, suggests that the OCC's implementation of anti-money-laundering and sanctions compliance laws could be pushing banks to de-risk. The de-risking phenomenon is hardly confined to U.S. banks, however, as financial institutions worldwide have been dropping clients in industries (such as money-services businesses) and regions (such as the Caribbean) perceived as high compliance risks.
The OCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But in March, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said the OCC was analyzing the issue and could issue guidance for financial institutions on optimal risk management strategies.
Curry also said then that the OCC bore no responsibility for de-risking, which he said was based on business rationales.
"We don't make those decisions," Curry said. "Banks make those decisions."