Yesterday, during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, the head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Joseph Otting was repeatedly asked if he believes discrimination exists in America. He replied that he had never personally observed it, though he had heard about it from others. This is surprising given that discrimination in financial services has a well-documented past and present. Otting has had a long career in the banking industry and as Comptroller of the Currency, has a responsibility to help root out lending discrimination, so his statements are a serious concern.
In written testimony before the Committee, Otting announced his intention to essentially overhaul the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a fair lending law that has been crucial in expanding financial access to communities that have long faced – and still face – discrimination.
Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Federal Advocacy Director, Scott Astrada, issued the following statement:
“The CRA has done important work to drive financial equity and ensure banks serve all communities where they have a financial footprint.
“Comptroller Otting’s proposal to radically restructure the law should be closely scrutinized because, given his remarks, he is apparently oblivious to the historic and systemic discrimination that the CRA was enacted to eliminate.
“I hope he will work collaboratively with civil rights, housing, and consumer groups on any changes to the law to ensure he accounts for the harsh realities of discrimination that still plague the financial marketplace.”