Biden set to tap former Treasury official Barr as top bank regulator

President Joe Biden is expected to pick former Treasury Department official Michael Barr as comptroller of the currency, a key regulator that oversees national banks, according to people familiar with the matter.

If confirmed, Barr, who has particular expertise in financial technology, would take over the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as traditional banks confront both competition and business opportunities from upstart online lenders and financial apps. He sat on the board of advisers for cryptocurrency payments company Ripple Labs.

Barr also played a major role in the crafting of financial safeguards in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. He has been critical of financial rule rollbacks under the Trump administration and has called for strengthening consumer protection.

Democrats have pushed for a Biden appointee to quickly reverse several actions by the Trump-era OCC, including rules aimed at helping fintech companies that they believe make it easier for payday lenders to partner with banks to get around state interest rate caps.

The news of his expected appointment was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Barr is dean of public policy at the University of Michigan and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group. He worked as assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions in 2009 and 2010 and served in the Obama White House before that. He also worked at Treasury under President Bill Clinton.

He edged out law professor Mehrsa Baradaran, who was preferred by many progressives for the position in part because of her expertise on racial inequality in banking. All of the permanent comptrollers in history have been white men.


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