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April 22, 2013

After 'Whale,' OCC Chief in Crunch Time

After being grilled by lawmakers over his agency’s botched handling of the J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. “London whale” trades, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry fired off a memo to staff about the breakdown.

J.P. Morgan’s failure to provide complete information to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regarding more than $6 billion in losses was “absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Curry wrote in the March memo, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. But he also faulted his own bank examiners for failing to probe deeply enough or demand more information.

“‘We also missed red flags that could have led us to a fuller understanding of the problems.…And there were times when we did not press hard enough or ask enough questions to get information that was critical to our exam efforts,’ Mr. Curry wrote. While he praised the staff as the ‘best examiners at any regulatory agency’ he offered a word of caution: ‘It is crucial that we set high expectations for federal banks and thrifts and accept nothing less than full compliance.”‘

The memo illustrates the pressure facing Mr. Curry, a career bank regulator who, one year into the job, has found himself in the middle of a firestorm over his agency’s ability to police some of the nation’s biggest banks. The OCC has suffered several black eyes, including mistakes enforcing money-laundering rules at HSBC Holdings PLC, a flawed mortgage-foreclosure review and missing the J.P. Morgan trades.”


Read full Wall Street Journal article here

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