OCC works to add House Democrats to its REACh Project

Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks continues his work to reach the other side of the aisle with promises from key players to support minority banks.

The Office of the United States Bitcoin Future Treasury Comptroller is expanding an outreach programme designed to provide access to minority depository institutions, or MDIs.

According to a Thursday announcement shared with Cointelegraph, the OCC’s REACh Project is expanding to include a commitment from large and mid-sized banks to partner with MDIs. The commitment requires the partner bank to expand investment and executive development support in the MDI it works with.

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MDIs are simply banks or credit unions that are majority-owned by ethnic or racial minorities. They are considered key to extending financial inclusion to minority groups excluded from many parts of the mainstream financial system. Acting Comptroller Brooks said of the MDIs:

„Their unique status makes them well suited to help improve financial services for minority and underserved communities and create meaningful economic opportunities.
The OCC named Citibank, Flagstar, Huntington, Texas Capital and Wells Fargo as the first grouping to join the new commitment.

Initially announced in October, Project REACh began under Brooks‘ leadership and has been a centerpiece of his work on financial inclusion, especially to Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee who are unhappy with his focus on cryptomonics.

Brooks joined the OCC from the Coinbase legal team earlier this year after Joseph Otting resigned. Within the Treasury, the OCC is responsible for managing the federal government’s relationship with national banks. Given Brooks‘ background, it is not surprising that crypto currencies were in his mind as a means of advancing the U.S. banking system when he joined.

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There’s a catch. Donald Trump’s nominee, Steven Mnuchin, heads the Treasury, and it was Otting, Trump’s nominee, who appointed Brooks as his interim successor. Only a few weeks ago, Trump nominated Brooks for the position, but that nomination is awaiting Senate confirmation and the clock is ticking. Given the ties to President Trump, it is not surprising that the relationship with Democrats in the congressional committees responsible for overseeing these offices can become strained.

In early November, Brooks appeared before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee to report on the activities of the OCC. As mentioned above, it was Democrats in the former committee who criticized Brooks‘ focus on cryptomonies as a distraction from the duties of expanding financial access. And in fact, President Waters (D-CA) wrote a series of criticisms of Otting and Brooks for their handling of the Community Reinvestment Act.

However, Democratic representatives like Al Green of Houston, who has spent many years supporting minority financial access on the Financial Services Committee, seemed impressed with Project REACh at last month’s hearing.

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For its part, the name of the REACh Project seems to be not only a reference to extending a hand to those outside the financial system; it also seems to be an effort to cross the aisle in the face of partisan stagnation.