Ex-banker Otting confirmed as U.S. Comptroller of the Currency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former banking executive and associate of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to be U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, serving as the leading regulator of national banks.

The Senate approved Joseph Otting by a vote of 54-to-43, with the confirmation expected. Otting, who will be sworn in as head of the OCC within days, will overlook such big banks as Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co.

Otting spent more than 30 years as a banker with stints at U.S. Bank and Union Bank, and was most recently chief executive officer of OneWest, the California lender started by Mnuchin after the 2008 housing crisis.

He replaces Keith Noreika, who was acting comptroller since May, when he was installed by Mnuchin. Noreika made an early mark as an aggressive proponent for deregulation, and had sparred with holdovers from President Barack Obama like Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray. Cordray said Wednesday that he will step down by the end of the month.

As the day-to-day regulator for large lenders, the OCC is responsible for writing banking rules and helping to monitor the health of Wall Street.

The agency seeks to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system alongside sister agencies like the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

At the OCC, Otting will have a say in many politically charged issues. Wells Fargo is still under scrutiny more than a year after a phony accounts scandal. And the OCC will be a leading voice on regulatory issues such as anti-money laundering and how to enforce the Volcker Rule meant to prevent Wall Street from gambling with bank deposits.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder and Patrick Rucker; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe