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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Details: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency finalized a rule it first proposed last November, arguing that industry-driven decisions violated its fair access policy.

  • It only relates to banks with more than $100 billion in assets, which OCC says "may exert significant pricing power or influence over sectors of the national economy."
  • That would include Citi, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase — each of which has limited lending to certain types of new energy projects. It also includes Bank of America, which in 2018 said it would stop financing the makers of military-style firearms.

What they're saying:

Brian Brooks, who stepped down as Acting Comptroller of the Currency just hours after the rule was finalized:

"When a large bank decides to cut off access to charities or even embassies serving dangerous parts of the world or companies conducting legal businesses in the United States that support local jobs and the national economy, they need to show their work and the legitimate business reasons for doing so... Moreover, elected officials should determine what is legal and illegal in our country."

Greg Baer, president and CEO of the Bank Policy Institute:

"The rule lacks both logic and legal basis, it ignores basic facts about how banking works, and it will undermine the safety and soundness of the banks to which it applies. Its substantive problems are outweighed only by the egregious procedural failings of the rulemaking process, and for these reasons it is unlikely to withstand scrutiny."

Between the lines: The Trump administration is rushing to finalize a rash of rulemaking before next Wednesday's transition of power, including a controversial Treasury effort to apply many traditional banking standards to self-hosted cryptocurrency wallets. Much of it may be overturned by the incoming Biden administration.

Looking ahead: OCC is expected to have a difficult time enforcing this rule, even if it remains on the books.

Go deeper

Biden's centrist words, liberal actions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden talks like a soothing centrist. He promises to govern like a soothing centrist. But early moves show that he is keeping his promise to advance a liberal agenda.

Why it matters: Never before has a president done more by executive fiat in such a short period of time than Biden. And those specific actions, coupled with a push for a more progressive slate of regulators and advisers, look more like the Biden of the Democratic primary than the unity-and-restraint Biden of the general election.

$1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill clears major procedural vote in Senate

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to advance the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: After weeks of negotiating, portions of the bill remain unwritten, but the Senate can now start debating the legislation to resolve outstanding issues.

Fed chair says he isn't concerned by Delta surge

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at the G20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Venice last month. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

One of the country's most influential economic officials doesn't anticipate that surging coronavirus cases will knock the reopening recovery off course.

What he's saying: "There has tended to be less economic implications from each [coronavirus] wave. We'll see if that's the case for the Delta variety," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters today.