By Michelle Price and Pete Schroeder WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s pick to lead one of the country’s top banking regulators will focus on ensuring a fair and competitive market in which small and mid-size banks can thrive, according to her prepared congressional testimony released on Wednesday. Saule Omarova will appear before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday to explain why she should be confirmed to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) despite opposition from banks, Republicans and even some Democrats. A professor at Cornell Law School specializing in financial regulation and a former U.S. Treasury Department official, Omarova has won praise from Democratic progressives who believe she would take a tough stance on Wall Street. But her nomination was met with unusually vocal opposition from business and banking groups, who say her academic work arguing for big institutions to be broken up and for the Federal Reserve to provide public bank accounts is anti-capitalist. While nominees can pass with a simple majority, Omarova may still struggle to gain enough votes in a divided Senate, said Washington insiders. In her prepared testimony, Omarova said she wanted to protect small and mid-sized banks, which have steadily shrunk in number in recent years, harming communities’ access to credit. “Community banks are also forced to compete with Big Tech companies, like Facebook (NASDAQ:), that do not play by the same rules,” she wrote. Born and raised in Kazakhstan, at the time part of the Soviet Union, Omarova said she had experienced an oppressive state-run system which has given her a “unique appreciation” for the United States’ dynamic markets. During her stint at the Treasury as the financial crisis began to unfold, she said she also saw how powerful market players created excessive risks and left taxpayers to foot the bill. “We cannot afford a repetition of this destructive scenario,” she said.
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