Embattled Biden Nom Omarova Wants To Put Feds on Boards of Banks

Republicans grill 'Lenin scholar' on Karl Marx thesis

Saule Omarova / Getty Images
November 18, 2021

Joe Biden’s embattled pick to regulate banks further imperiled her nomination Thursday when she told a Senate panel that she supports putting government officials on bank boards.

Republicans have savaged the nomination of collegiate "Lenin scholar" and Soviet apologist Saule Omarova, whom Biden tapped to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of the world’s most powerful bank regulators. Speaking before the Senate Banking Committee, Omarova defended giving government officials seats on bank boards, a position one Republican said is "consistent with a socialist view of a command-and-control economy."

Omarova told Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) she still supports the "golden share" idea, in which a government official would serve on the board of banks under certain conditions, such as when national security or financial system stability are under threat. Omarova proposed the idea in a 2017 paper, saying it would mitigate risk at the bank and maintain solvency across the banking system. She said the government official would serve as an "insider" at the bank and would help "counteract socially harmful" behavior by the institution.

Omarova acknowledged in the paper that the idea was likely to attract criticism that it was "too radical, unworkable, or even dangerous." Daines adopted that view, calling her proposal "chilling."

All Republicans at the Banking Committee hearing said they opposed Omarova’s nomination. Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said he had "significant concerns" about her proposals, as well as her past criticism of a banking bill he sponsored in 2018.

Republicans keyed in on Omarova’s calls to "end banking as we know it" and her comment earlier this year that the oil and gas industry needs to "go bankrupt" in order to fight climate change. Omarova testified that the statement was "poor phrasing" and that she does not support using government authority to bankrupt the fossil fuel industry.

Senators also quizzed Omarova about her academic history, including a thesis she wrote about Karl Marx while studying at Moscow State University in the 1980s. Omarova informed the Banking Committee last Friday that she no longer has the document.

"It simply did not even occur to me to look up some typewritten version of some mandatorily assigned paper. So I didn’t bring it with me," Omarova said at Thursday's hearing. "It did not reflect my views then; it does not reflect my views now."

Though Omarova disavowed the paper, she did not explain why it was listed on her academic résumé as recently as 2017. She also did not say why she scrubbed the paper from the résumé.