Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R) will push for legislation next year he says will enable his office to oversee the state’s Division of Finance without interference from state agencies or private entities.
The proposed bill is, in part, the result of an ongoing legal battle with the Missouri Banker’s Association. Schweich says the MBA is seeking to block his office from examining how the Finance Division examined the records of a number of failed banks in Missouri.
“No governor or Attorney General has ever challenged the State Auditor’s authority to conduct performance audits,” Schweich said. "If the Missouri Banker’s Association is successful in shutting down performance audits, we will be the least fiscally accountable state in the entire United States of America...that is not an overstatement, that is a fact."
Schweich released an audit earlier this year that found the State Division of Finance had not used the proper criteria while examining four failed state chartered banks and had overcharged for the costs of bank exams. In addition, the agency had earlier refused to release the documents Schweich wanted, saying it was barred from doing so by state law. Both sides reached an agreement in June.
Schweich says the proposed bill would clarify the State Auditor’s authority to conduct performance audits of state agencies and to have complete access to bank exam records.
The Missouri Banker’s Association, meanwhile, is suing Schweich to block him from accessing those records. Max Cook is the MBA’s President and CEO.
“Those reports contain a tremendous amount of confidential and proprietary information on customers of those banks," Cook said. "We have grave concerns about that information being in the hands of an elected official or anybody else for that matter.”
Cook also contends that the State Constitution bars the State Auditor from gaining access to confidential bank records. Schweich disagrees, and says he’s willing to take his case to the Missouri Supreme Court, in addition to pursuing legislation.