U.S. judge dismisses state regulators' lawsuit over national 'fintech' charter

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin gestures after swearing in Joseph M. Otting as Comptroller of the Currency as Otting's wife, Bonnie, watches in Washington, U.S. November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A District of Columbia federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by state bank regulators against the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency over its proposal to offer charters that would let so-called fintech companies do business nationwide.

Since the OCC has not reached a final decision on the fintech charters, the claim of harm by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) was speculative, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich wrote in her decision tossing out the case, issued late on Monday.

Fintech companies are firms that provide a range of financial services, usually delivered by technology, such as online lenders.

In the lawsuit, filed in April 2017, the CSBS said the OCC’s plan to grant the national charters exceeded the OCC’s statutory authority and that fintech firms are best regulated by the state.

A Manhattan federal judge in December dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by New York’s banking regulator against the OCC.

“In essence, the judge decided that the OCC has not made a final decision on proceeding with the fintech charter and, thus, the matter is not yet ripe for consideration. As a result, the judge did not render a decision on the merits of our case,” John Ryan, president and CEO of CSBS, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The fintech community has been watching closely to see if Joseph Otting, appointed Comptroller of the Currency in November, would push ahead with a charter to allow fintech firms to do business nationwide that was first announced in 2016 by his predecessor, Thomas Curry.

Otting said at a conference in Washington last month that the regulator was aiming to publish its position on the charter within the next 60 to 90 days.

A spokesman for the OCC declined to comment on the decision. But he said in a statement on Tuesday that if the agency does push ahead with such a charter, fintech firms would be supervised in line with similar, traditional banks “with appropriate requirements for capital, liquidity, and meeting the financial needs of its customers.”

Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Dan Grebler