The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) charters, regulates, and supervises all national
banks. It also supervises the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. Headquartered in
Washington, D.C., the OCC has four district offices plus an office in London to supervise the
international activities of national banks.
The OCC was established in 1863 as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The OCC is headed
by the Comptroller, who is appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a
five-year term. The Comptroller also serves as a director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
(FDIC) and a director of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.
The OCC’s nationwide staff of examiners conducts on-site reviews of national banks and provides
sustained supervision of bank operations. The agency issues rules, legal interpretations, and
corporate decisions concerning banking, bank investments, bank community development activities, and
other aspects of bank operations.
National bank examiners supervise domestic and international activities of national banks and perform
corporate analyses. Examiners analyze a bank’s loan and investment portfolios, funds management,
capital, earnings, liquidity, sensitivity to market risk, and compliance with consumer banking laws,
including the Community Reinvestment Act. They review the bank’s internal controls, internal and
external audit, and compliance with law. They also evaluate bank management’s ability to identify and
In regulating national banks, the OCC has the power to:
- Examine the banks.
- Approve or deny applications for new charters, branches, capital, or other changes in corporate or
- Take supervisory actions against banks that do not comply with laws and regulations or that
otherwise engage in unsound banking practices. The agency can remove officers and directors, negotiate
agreements to change banking practices, and issue cease and desist orders as well as civil money
- Issue rules and regulations governing bank investments, lending, and other practices.
The OCC’s Objectives
The OCC’s activities are predicated on four objectives that support the OCC’s mission to ensure a
stable and competitive national banking system. The four objectives are:
- To ensure the safety and soundness of the national banking system.
- To foster competition by allowing banks to offer new products and services.
- To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OCC supervision, including reducing regulatory burden.
- To ensure fair and equal access to financial services for all Americans.
In 1861, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase recommended the establishment of a system of
federally chartered national banks, each of which would have the power to issue standardized national
bank notes based on United States bonds held by the bank. In the National Currency Act of 1863, the
administration of the new national banking system was vested in the newly created OCC and its chief
administrator, the Comptroller of the Currency.
The law was completely rewritten and re-enacted as the National Bank Act. That act authorized the
Comptroller of the Currency to hire a staff of national bank examiners to supervise and periodically
examine national banks. The act also gave the Comptroller authority to regulate lending and investment
activities of national banks.
One of the reasons Congress created a banking system that issued national currency was to finance the
Civil War. Although national banks no longer issue currency, they continue to play a prominent role in
the nation’s economic life. Today, the OCC regulates and supervises more than 2,200 national banks
and 56 federal branches of foreign banks in the U.S., accounting for more than 55 percent of the total assets of all U.S. commercial banks.
The OCC does not receive any appropriations from Congress. Instead, its operations are funded
primarily by assessments on national banks. National banks pay for their examinations, and they pay
for the OCC’s processing of their corporate applications. The OCC also receives revenue from its
investment income, primarily from U.S. Treasury securities.
The FDIC insures the deposits in all national banks. An individual is limited to $100,000 in insurance
coverage at each bank (including all branches).
Information about the OCC and Banking
You can learn more about what the OCC does (as well as what national banks are doing) by consulting the
OCC’s Web site (http://www.occ.treas.gov). It contains the OCC’s latest news releases, banking
issuances, employment information, and publications. The Web site also has much more information,
including the Weekly Bulletin of national banks’ corporate applications, Community Reinvestment
Act evaluations, the OCC’s organizational directory, and forms and software.
By law, the OCC is prohibited from releasing information from its bank safety and soundness
examinations to the public. National banks must, however, submit a Report of Condition and Income
(call report) four times a year to the FDIC. Call reports contain publicly available financial
information about the bank. The FDIC makes these reports available upon request by phone
(202-898-6570) and on the Web (http://www.fdic.gov/bank/index.html).
If you have a complaint about a national bank and cannot resolve it with the institution, contact the
OCC Customer Assistance Group at 1-800-613-6743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the OCC, contact:
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Washington, DC 20219
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