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Julie Williams, The Lex Luthor of Banking Regulators, Retires

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I just got a press release from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that its general counsel Julie Williams, an institution at the regulator for 19 years, is retiring. This is potentially a very big deal, because the OCC just underwent a leadership change from bank friendly John Walsh to a more measured Tom Curry, and the question was whether Curry would consolidate his leadership and move the regulator in a different direction. It looks like that’s what could be happening. Here’s what I wrote, back in May.

Williams is the Chief Counsel for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and that’s her testifying in December, 2011 to the Senate Banking Committee on the OCC’s approach to foreclosures.  Her most recent feat of evil is the foreclosure review process (which one whistleblower has called a sham), where she hired consultants to review foreclosures who had previously been credit risk managers on the predatory loans that are now in foreclosure.  Some of these firms even “scrub files” on behalf of the banks themselves.  Of course, the corrupt shadow regulator the Promontory Group is in the mix, since Promontory has loads of former OCC-employees on its payroll (and was in fact founded by former OCC Chief Gene Ludwig).

According to Senator Jeff Merkley, the OCC tried to keep these consultants secret and then failed after public pressure forced them to divulge the consultants involved in the reviews.  Williams, of course, probably lied about it to the Senate.  In other words, Julie Williams is basically the Lex Luther of the bank regulatory community, overseeing the preemption of state and local lending laws that allowed the housing bubble to blow out, and now running and defending the “foreclosure review” process that the OCC is using to cover up servicer fraud from the banks.  The OCC, remember, is responsible for the safety and soundness of national banks, which means that the failure of most (though not all) of the big ones, including Countrywide (until late 2006), Bank of America, and Citigroup, can be laid at the feet of the OCC.

The OCC has a new head, Thomas Curry, who was just confirmed by the Senate.  I’m told that he’s a respectable regulator with integrity, but that he’s a bit cautious.  I suspect that if he’s going to succeed in reigning in a bank regulator that is renowned for a track record of catastrophic failure, Williams will have to either be fired or marginalized.

In order to regulate banks like JP Morgan effectively, you need regulators who are willing to do so.  As long as Julie Williams is with the OCC, we can be sure that she’ll do everything in her power to make sure the will won’t be there for a serious approach to dealing with the problems in our banking system.

I don’t have an inside source at the OCC telling me if this is some grand shift in strategy for the regulator that is probably more at fault for the financial crisis than any other (with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve), and certainly for horrific policies like preemption of state and local consumer protection laws. Maybe Williams just wants to or hast to retire for some reason, and the OCC will continue on its merry way. But I’ll take it.

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23 comments

    1. YankeeFrank

      If I didn’t, I can always claim I did ;).

      If Williams does have two barrels, she’s been pointing them directly at the 99% her entire “career” as an erstwhile “public servant”. I prefer to see her as the Pyongyang Ping Pong Shooter popping ping pong balls from her snatch for Hell’s amusement for the next 1,000 years.

      Good riddance to a crooked washed up criminal accessory. Now she can sit at home and think pleasant thoughts about what a sellout immoral abettor she’s been her entire adult life, and feel the cold clammy hands of death slowly take her below, to her rightful home in the demon depths plumbed by her corrupt and venal soul.

      1. Up the Ante

        .. and to that composition of yours I can only add ..

        .. to think she began her life as a loving child, possibly brighter than most, lol, and as maturation was ‘forced upon her’ thru her teen years her soul began to darken so so that by the time college rolled around and law school was considered she’d doubled-down and began the search for similar soulless conspirators. Years passing she finally settled to the bottom of the barrell, the OCC, refuge of the utterly soulless, she as Queen Rapist of the American Economy.

        utter lack of human empathy, Julie ‘the Blaze’ Williams suggests ‘impertinence’ to her void-ic self while regretting granting that interview,
        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/credit/art/williamsp.jpg

  1. bob

    The OCC deserves better. They are one of the oldest law enforement agencies in the US, predating the fed, FBI and SEC.

    It’s good to hear somethings are changing, but the proof is in the handcuffs.

    1. Up the Ante

      “one of the oldest ” Civil War era

      At this point in time they deserve to be broken up, bankrupted and sold into slavery. lol

  2. scraping_by

    “a more measured Tom Curry”

    It’s not credible the current administration would put an independent, ethical, honest, public-sprited person in a position concerning the fraud model business plan of banks.

    Look for more measured kubuki, along with more measured compounding felonies.

    1. EH

      I expect to hear at least some, “If Obama is re-elected…” jabber from the same side of Obama’s face as his weak-chinned overtures about cannabis legalization. Future-bribes (aka “hope”) is his stock in trade.

      1. just me

        Neil Barofsky was a Bush appointee as Bush was on the way out, and he’s been splendid. Maybe Obama would do the same favor to Romney…

        There I go again, hoping.

        1. Up the Ante

          Seeing that Neil can only describe his former employers as “tepid” your descriptor “splendid” is hereby annulled. Saying that he has or is served/serving a purpose is affirmed.

          “Neil Barofsky was a Bush appointee as Bush was on the way out, and he’s been splendid. “

          1. just me

            Is this an inside the box / outside the box thing? My brain is very small. I like Neil Barofsky, and just the “foam the runway for the banks” Geithner nail makes it all worthwhile to me. Which he could not say outside the box had he not been inside the box. Your annulment is hereby annulled. Dude’s been splendid.

            “Seeing that Neil can only describe his former employers as ‘tepid’ your descriptor ‘splendid’ is hereby annulled.”

          2. Up the Ante

            “Is this an inside the box / outside the box thing?

            Only in the sense that cheerleading for a half-motivated hero is “inside the box”, as you put it ?

            Perhaps we’ll perceive your true opinion of the Justice Dept’s lack of prosecutions ["tepid"] when I ask you your emotional response to Holder being sued by the House Repubs ? That could destabilize a cheerleader, you’re not one of those, are you ?

  3. mac

    We should make list of all the many many Government agencies and do away with every other one, then do it again and maybe again.
    The odds are every good that we would not do away with any that really did good things.

    1. scraping_by

      Do away only when you find a substitute. The missions these alphabet agencies mishandle are good and needed. And indeed, perhaps not broad enough.

      Self-regulation is fine slogan, a great topic for the classroom, maybe even a jolly book now and then. Apply it to the real world and disasters begin and never seem to end.

      The central planning of the neoliberals is a fancy name for scam games,so isn’t the New Deal regulatory regime. All beats need cops. Heaven is not here and now.

      1. EH

        One might say that a measure of their necessity is the degree to which they’re mismanaged. Completely superfluous gravy-train agencies keep clean behind the ears because they can already be guillotined without a thought if found to be screwing up the till. Necessary agencies are beaten into Stockholm Syndrome and staffed with ineffectual cronies.

      2. Francois T

        They could take example of Canada. There is ONE regulatory authority that matters in finance; the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

        Of course, no parliamentarian or even minister can make credible threats to his Agency, the true plague of the USA system of government.

        When any asswipe in CONgress can threaten to yank part of a budget or engage in systemically and publicly humiliate heads of Agencies, how the hell are they supposed to be efficient? My blood boils every time I recall Patrick McHenry, fucktard extraordinaire and colossal POS who publicly accused Liz Warren of lying when HE was the liar. Moreover, donations form even more fucktards poured in for McHenry.

        But I severely digress. The fact is that we have COngress doing the bidding of big money. Big money doesn’t care about the well being of this nation. In Cananda, Big money doesn’t care that much either, but regulators do not have to watch their back and flanks all the time just because some politician is either a braintard ideologue anxious to emulate the zeal of an ayatollah, or a profiteer bending over to Big Money.

        Of course, political pressures exist for Canadian regulators too, but they are MUCH more independent.

  4. steelhead23

    I too have been enraged by Julie’s dissembling. Ding-dong the witch is dead (or at least retired).

    I would like to connect one or two dots here, if I may. Nobody wishes to be the one to turn the lights out on a wild party. No one. But somebody has to do it. Both the Fed and OCC had a duty to constrain the credit mania. They had laws on their side, volumes of regulations. They could close banks, or limit their access to credit. Yet, they did not. Over the past 30 years, credit grew much faster than GDP and much, much faster than wages. Yet, the regulators could not bring themselves to pull the punch bowl away. Then it happened. Everyone at the party was vomiting from having consumed too much credit. Do we blame the party goers (banksters) for drinking too deep? Hell, in myriad ways, we encouraged them – or more accurately, their regulators encouraged them.

    Yves has posited that the solution to this orgy is to regulate the industry like a utility, to again separate investment banking from commercial banking. I beg to differ, and Julie Williams is the perfect example of my objection. Look where she is. Is she at the bottom of the heap, having failed here political bosses? Oh, hell no, she is at the top. Why? Because she did precisely what her bosses wanted. Sneak into here retirement soiree if you can. I am certain you would hear beatifying remarks.

    Regulations work only so long as the careers of those who regulate are enhanced by vigorously regulating. This enthusiasm tends to fade with the memories of the last crisis. Once capital is moving briskly, growing the economy, a vigorous regulator is the proverbial turd in the puchbowl. The regulator is unduly trying to limit “animal spirits”, the quest for profits seen by many as the source of social happiness. Is it any wonder that in the current for-profit model of banking, regulations don’t work for very long.

    1. Ms G

      Very well said. Regulation is only as good (meaningful) as the regulators. And if we’ve learned one thing from this sorry last 30 years it is that regulators are expected to act as Consiglieri, not genuine defenders of the public good.

      (Mrs. Gulch was also an image that came to mind when I read the post.)

  5. Gregw571

    Frontline interviewed OCC’s Julie Williams back in 2004 for its documentary, “The Secret History of the Credit Card”. Please find an excerpt below.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/credit/interviews/williams.html

    “…you’re funded by these banks; is that correct?

    Yeah.

    They pay you fees?

    The OCC has been funded by fees and assessments that are charged on national banks ever since we were first created. …

    And your fundamental charge is the soundness of the bank?

    I would say that we have three goals, three interconnected aspects of our mission: safety and soundness — to make sure that the banks don’t fail, that customers don’t face disruption or loss of access to their funds, that the banks are there to make credit availability; to ensure the integrity of how the banks operate, their corporate governance; and to make sure that they deal fairly and honestly with their customers. That is an integral part of our supervision of national banks.

    So, when recently you issued guidelines listing questionable practices by the credit card industry, why don’t you simply stop them? Why don’t you ban these practices if you’ve warned them before?

    When we see practices that are potentially problematic, we take a variety of actions. And at the extreme, we have the ability to take enforcement actions, and we may have the ability to tell a particular credit card issuer: “Stop that.” And we have done that; we have taken enforcement action.

    What we’re seeing in the areas that we addressed in the advisory were issues in connection with disclosure practices, where we were concerned that the type of information that was being provided to the consumer wasn’t being provided in a way that was as useful or sufficient to deal with the choices that the consumer was facing. So what we indicated in that advisory is that there were certain types of practices that we thought were unacceptable.

    The industry can do things like “universal default” — if you fail to make a payment on time for your home or your car, that can affect your interest rate, for example, on your credit card. They can raise it, and there’s no limit, really, on how high they can raise it. The industry can do things like offer you zero percent to move a balance, but it doesn’t necessarily explain fully what the consequences of that could be — for example, if you missed a payment. And you were saying the only problem with these practices is that they don’t disclose them fully?

    What I’m saying is that the problem that we are address[ing] is making sure that the customers are making fully informed choices. There are a lot of options, there are a lot of choices that are available for credit card customers today. And we are concerned that when they make a choice for a particular type of card or to engage in particular activities, that they have good disclosure, that they understand the consequences of that.

    But do you know of a card, for instance, that a major issuer puts out that doesn’t involve the practice of universal default?

    What we are doing right now is, in conjunction with the issuance of the advisory, to supplement our regular ongoing supervision, and as part of that, we do look at marketing materials. We are pulling in the marketing materials of all of our major credit card-issuing institutions, and we’re doing a review of those. And we’ll see just exactly what they’re doing, and we’ll see where there needs to be further effort on our part to address the issues we raised in our advisory.

    Do you have the power to order the banks to stop doing something; to actually, say: “Don’t offer zero percent anymore, period, it’s not allowed,” or, “Don’t do universal default anymore,” just as two examples?

    … If we had a basis for a concluding that a bank was involved in a practice that was unfair or deceptive, if it violated any of the other many consumer protection standards that applied to them, we can tell them to stop it immediately. …

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