WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sharply criticized the new acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as part of a report Thursday detailing how industry executives and lobbyists have joined the Trump administration.
During testimony at the Senate Banking Committee last month, acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika said he did not have to sign an ethics pledge, as required of most agency appointees, given his special status as a temporary appointment. That bothered Democrats on the panel, including Warren, who said Noreika's appointment was proof that President Trump was not serious about his pledges to "drain the swamp."
“This is one of the worst examples,” Warren said of Noreika. “Trump has been willing to weaken the ethics rules and now he has got someone heading up the OCC who says he doesn’t even have to follow the ethics rules at all. That is not draining the swamp. That is opening the doors right open and letting the swamp creatures right in.”
In an emailed response to Warren’s comments, Noreika said the senator is “wrong about the ethics rules that apply and my commitment to abide by all applicable ethics restrictions and to recuse myself from any matter where appropriate.”
Noreika is expected to serve 130 days in a one-year period, which is the extent some temporary appointees would be able to serve before signing an ethics pledge. The duration he serves may also be revisited.
Noreika added that he had a conversation with Warren last month and was “disappointed that Senator Warren did not raise her concerns with me directly when we met, and would now resort to name calling and fact-free attacks on my character.”
Though Noreika is only the acting head of the OCC, he has been unusually active in the role. He's started a public feud with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray over that agency's arbitration rule and questioned whether the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. should have to approve de novo bank applications.
His nominated successor, OneWest executive Joseph Otting, is likely to be sharply questioned by Warren and other Democrats when he appears before the Senate Banking Committee next week for his nomination hearing. Former Wall Street lawyer Randal Quarles, who was nominated to be the head of bank supervision at the Federal Reserve Board, is also scheduled to testify at the hearing.
Warren's report claimed that 193 former lobbyists and corporate insiders have gone to work for Trump since he was elected.
“We have a responsibility over here in the Senate to show some backbone and to have some oversight over these people once they are already in office, but also to turn down those who represent an industry point of view,” Warren said. “On [Trump's] promise to drain the swamp I give him an F."