|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Friday, April 9, 1999||202-224-0894|
GRAMM COMMENDS OCC FOR NEW ETHICS RULE
BARRING POLITICAL ISSUES FROM EXAM PROCESS
Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, commended the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for its new ethics rule that specifically prohibits political communications between OCC examiners and the banks they are examining.
"This is an important step toward preventing the kind of abuse of the examination process that we saw earlier this year, when OCC examiners were seeking political statements from bankers about the Community Reinvestment Act," Gramm said. "The new ethics rule should make it clear to everyone that such activity is highly improper."
Gramm informed the OCC of his concerns about the political use of the examination process in late January. Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. responded with a Feb. 5 memorandum to OCC staff, directing an end to "improper" contacts with bank officers and employees. The new ethics rule formalizes Hawke's directive.
Gramm has asked other bank and thrift regulators whether similar policies are spelled out in their ethics rules for employees. He has also shared the OCC's new policy with two major banking groups, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America.
"Bank and thrift examiners have a unique power over bankers," Gramm said. "All examiners and all bankers should know that abuse of that power is an ethical violation that will not be tolerated."