WASHINGTON — Four Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee said Thursday that they will vote against the nomination of Joseph Otting as comptroller of the currency.
"We object to rushing the confirmation of Joseph Otting to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency through the Senate,” the senators — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — said in a joint press release. They were joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a former member of the banking panel.
The Democrats said they oppose Otting because he is the former chief executive of OneWest, a Pasadena, Calif., bank that was bought by CIT.
The Democrats called OneWest "a notorious foreclosure mill that booted thousands of families out of their homes, illegally foreclosed on dozens of service members, and forked over $89 million for defrauding the government” and said Otting is “highly unqualified for this job.”
Their comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought unanimous consent to move quickly on Otting's nomination, a process that is now blocked after Democrats objected. McConnell has now begun the process of full debate on Otting's nomination.
In their press release, Democrats also criticized acting Comptroller Keith Noreika for being too close to the banking industry and siding against consumers. However, they said their objection to Noreika doesn’t justify confirming Otting.
“The Senate must conduct a real debate before a vote putting someone with a track record in predatory banking into a position so critical to protecting consumers," the release said.
Noreika was appointed as a “special government employee” which allows him to serve as the acting OCC head for 130 days without certain obligations such as signing an ethics pledge. The OCC has said that Noreika plans to abide by applicable ethics restrictions and that he will not be under any additional obligations after the 130th business day, which is Nov. 10.
Last month Democrats on the banking panel sent a letter to Eric Thorson, the Treasury inspector general, asking him to investigate Noreika’s appointment as a special government employee.