Julie Williams Steps Down As OCC Chief Counsel

Julie Williams, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's notorious longtime Chief Counsel and sometime Acting Comptroller, is stepping down from her post effective September 30. According to a statement released by the agency, she will retire from the government at the end of this year; it's unclear whether that means that she won't do any lobbying for banks after leaving the agency. The Wall Street Journal has the story here. The published reports do not indicate whether Williams was fired, but that's what I have heard from some reliable sources.

Williams has long been a target of criticism by consumer advocates; in a post earlier today, Naked Capitalism calls her "the Lex Luther of bank regulators." The main reason for the criticism is Williams' role as the principal architect and chief defender of the OCC's expansive preemption regime, which wiped out state anti-predatory lending laws at the very time they were most needed. Even after Congress took specific action to roll back OCC preemption through the Dodd-Frank Act, Williams persisted, spearheading new rules last summer that attempt to circumvent the Act. More generally, Williams was known for her tendency to prioritize banks' interests over consumer protection and for her hostility to the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank Act.

Although she held the position during previous vacancies, Williams was passed over for Acting Comptroller by the Obama Administration and there has been much speculation about whether she would be fired outright by the new comptroller, Tom Curry. Curry had a very different, and more balanced position on preemption when he ran the state banking agency in Massachusetts, but has been circumspect on the topic since taking over the OCC.