Lawyer Is Now Regulating Banking Industry He Has Spent a Career Protecting

In Conflict of Interest, Governing and the Cabinet On

A spokesman for the Treasury Department, which houses the agency, said Mr. Noreika would face “the same strong ethics laws that apply to all officials serving in the O.C.C.,” including divesting certain assets that pose a conflict and recusal from “any specific matters involving his clients from over the past year.”

And yet, the White House used an administrative quirk to appoint Mr. Noreika to the job on an acting basis as a “special government employee,” who is expected to work at the agency for no more than 130 days, rather than through a Senate confirmation, an unusual move for the agency.

As a result, Mr. Noreika does not need to sign the president’s ethics pledge, allowing him to face fewer restrictions on lobbying and lawyering when he returns to the private sector.

Citing potential conflicts of interest, seven of the 11 Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee submitted a letter on Thursday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, raising concerns about Mr. Noreika’s client list and pressing for clarity on his recusal plans. The letter, also questioning whether Mr. Mnuchin’s appointment of Mr. Noreika was “circumventing” the confirmation process and avoiding certain ethics requirements, called the episode an “apparent political power grab.”

“You have chosen to replace the current head with an acting head who is unvetted, has obvious conflicts of interest, and lacks the experience to run an agency that employs almost 4,000 individuals and oversees over 2,000 national banks, both large and small,” the Democratic senators, including Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, wrote in the letter.

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