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What is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency?

By Mona D. Rigdon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is a United States federal agency whose responsibility it is to regulate, charter and supervise national banks. An arm of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the OCC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts has four additional field offices in the U.S. and one in London.

Established by the National Currency Act in 1863, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency was created in part to finance the Civil War. Upon the recommendation of Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase, this administration of banking systems established a network of federally chartered national banks that could issue standardized bank notes based upon bonds held by these banks. The act also created the position of Comptroller of the Currency.

The law was soon rewritten as the National Bank Act. It authorized the Comptroller to create a staff of bank examiners to supervise and evaluate national banks. The Comptroller supervises this staff and is in charge of regulating, investing and lending activity of these national banks. National banks no longer issue currency, but because they play a prevalent role in the U.S. economy, the OCC continues to regulate these institutions.

Some of the duties of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency include examination of bank activity, internal and external reviews, supervision of bank operations, issuing of rules and interpretation of laws as they apply to the banks under its supervision. This office also ensures that national banks comply with all laws and regulations. Appointed to a five-year term by the President of the United States, the Comptroller also is the director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as well as NeighborWorks America.

Powers legally granted to the OCC include not only the examination and regulation of banks but also the power to deny or approve any application for new charter, capital, branch or other structural change. The office may take supervisory action against facilities that do not comply with regulations or laws or practice unsound banking practices. Further, the removal of officers or directors, negotiations of changes to banking practices and issuance of cease-and-desist orders and civil money penalties also are expressly granted as powers of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The OCC does not release information about examinations to the public. National banks are required to submit a Report of Condition of Income quarterly to the FDIC, which makes them publicly available on the FDIC website.

In furtherance of the goal of ensuring a stable and competitive national system of banking, the OCC seeks to ensure safe and sound practices, foster competition, encourage new products and services, improve efficiency and ensure fair and equal access to financial services for U.S. citizens. These operations are funded by monies charged to national banks to pay for the required examinations as well as processing of any corporate applications. Investment income provides further revenue to this office.

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