On July 19, Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Keith A. Noreika, spoke before the Exchequer Club about the proposed concept of granting special purpose charters for financial technology (fintech) companies. In prepared remarks, Acting Comptroller Noreika said the OCC has the authority to grant national bank charters to nondepository fintech companies in “appropriate circumstances.” However, he reiterated that having the authority does not imply a determination has been made as to whether the OCC will accept or grant applications from nondepository fintech companies that rely solely on regulation 12 CFR 5.20(e)(1), which outlines eligibility requirements for receiving special purpose national bank charters. To date, no such applications have been received.

The OCC continues to demonstrate its support for innovative developments and partnerships between banking and technology companies. As previously discussed in a Special Alert, the OCC issued a draft supplement in March to provide guidance for evaluating charter applications from fintech companies. “Providing a path for these companies to become national banks is pro-growth and in some ways can reduce regulatory burden for those companies,” Noreika remarked. However, the fintech special purpose national bank charter has recently met legal challenges from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (see Special Alerts here and here). Norieka stated that the OCC is developing its response to the NYDFS lawsuit “and plans to defend [its] authority vigorously.” He cautioned against defining banking too narrowly, and argued that fintech companies should be allowed to apply for national bank charters if they meet the criteria and are involved in the “business of banking.”