OCC puts fair access rule on hold as agency awaits new comptroller

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has announced that it put a hold on formally publishing a rule that seeks to push banks to provide fairer access to services.

According to the Thursday announcement, pausing publication of the rule will allow the next Comptroller of the Currency to review it and take into consideration any public comments the OCC has received. Recent reports suggest that former Treasury Department official Michael Barr, who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, may be nominated to lead the U.S. banking regulator.

The agency went public with the rule in November 2020. According to the US banking regulator's statement at the time, the OCC's stated position was that "banks should provide access to services, capital, and credit based on the risk assessment of individual customers, rather than broad-based decisions affecting whole categories or classes of customers." 

The primary goal of the proposal is to stop banks from limiting the access customers or businesses have to banking services. Under the new rule, banks would be required to make their services available to everyone in the communities they serve. However, they can still choose to deny specific services based on a customer's creditworthiness, ability to pay, and other factors.