Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A major regulator is racing to thwart big banks' refusal to lend and service certain industries and projects — including Arctic oil drilling and new coal mining.

Why it matters: America's biggest banks are increasingly scaling back ties with fossil fuel, prison and gun-manufacturing businesses amid public pressure and changing investment preferences.

Driving the news: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — one of three key banking regulators — floated draft rules Friday that say banks can't turn away entire industries. Rather, they have to prove that they decided not to lend because applicants didn’t meet "quantitative, impartial risk-based standards."

  • "Politically controversial but lawful businesses" deserve "fair access to financial services under the law," the proposal says.

Catch up quick: Banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citi and Goldman Sachs have crafted or expanded policies for new coal mines, coal-fired power and Arctic drilling.

  • JPMorgan said last year it would no longer provide banking services to the private prison operators, while the Bank of America said in 2018 that it would stop financing businesses that make military-style guns.

What they're saying: “There is a creeping politicization of the banking industry that has the propensity to be very, very dangerous,” said Brian P. Brooks, acting comptroller of the currency, per Bloomberg.

The other side: "Contrary to the claims of oil-backed politicians, banks don't want to finance more drilling in the Arctic not because of some vast liberal conspiracy, but because it's bad business," Sierra Club's Ben Cushing says.

Reality check: The ruling — if enacted, which is a long shot — likely won't stop banks from shunning certain industries. It would be difficult to enforce.

  • Daniel Stipano, a partner at law firm Buckley and former deputy chief counsel at the OCC, tells Axios a bank "would have to point to something besides a political judgement as the reason for not making the loan."

The big picture: It's the latest effort under the Trump administration to whittle away at investments that factor in industries' societal impact.

  • Earlier this month, the Labor Department finalized a rule that put a high burden on retirement funds that want to include investments that strip out fossil fuel companies and other non-sustainable businesses.

What we're watching: The clock. The OCC's last-ditch effort may ultimately prove meaningless.

  • Attorney James Goodwin of the left-leaning Center for Progressive Reform tells Axios that "short of a miracle, I don’t see how they could get a final rule out before inauguration."

The intrigue: The OCC is taking public comments until Jan. 4, and then would have a fast turnaround to complete the rule before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

  • The Biden administration — by installing its preferred OCC head — could unwind a completed rule, but that's complicated and slow compared to abandoning an incomplete proposal.

Go deeper

Biden rescinds anti-abortion "global gag rule"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday rescinded the "global gag rule," a policy that bans international organizations that receive U.S. funding from providing abortion services or offering information about abortion.

Why it matters: The Reagan-era rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, has historically been rescinded or rolled back by Democratic presidents and reinstated by Republican ones. The Trump administration also expanded the rule to include virtually all global health aid.

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.