This article was first published by Banking Dive and republished by CFO.com.
The departure of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s first-ever chief financial technology officer may have resulted from several alleged lies on his resume, The Information and Fintech Business Weekly reported.
When the OCC hired Prashant Bhardwaj to lead its new fintech office in March, it credited his “nearly 30 years of experience serving in a variety of roles across the financial sector” and his education, including a master’s degree in business administration from the International Management Institute in Brussels.
Bhardwaj, however, did not hold several of the roles his resume purported him to have held, the publications reported; and “nearly 30 years of experience” means he would have started in the financial sector as a young teenager.
Additionally, the IMI in Brussels was banned from offering MBA degrees in the years following Bhardwaj’s alleged attendance there, Fintech Business Weekly reported. An IMI representative told the publication it needed an advanced payment of €350 to confirm Bhardwaj’s attendance.
On his resume, which The Information received through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, stated, “Bhardwaj claimed he was the chief information officer at Ohio-based Fifth Third Bank between 2006 and 2010, a role that reported to the chief financial officer and oversaw a $330 million budget,” according to The Information reporter Michael Roddan. “The bank — one of the largest consumer banks in the midwest — never employed Bhardwaj, a spokesperson said.”
“He also claimed to have held the role of chief information officer and digital transformation officer at Ohio-based Huntington Bank from 2010 to 2015, reporting to the CEO and the board and managing a $250 million budget while overseeing a team of more than 500 employees,” Roddan wrote. “However, the position of chief information officer was held by other people during that time period. One of the men who held the role said he had never heard of Bhardwaj. Huntington declined to comment.”
Bhardwaj also claimed that he was a director of information technology at Citi from 1994 and 2000. The Information reported that Citi has no record of his employment. Fintech Business Weekly reported that Bhardwaj is 42 years old, meaning he would have been 13 in 1994.
An OCC spokesperson told Banking Dive the agency does not comment on “personnel matters.”
Bhardwaj’s stint at the OCC was short. He began the job April 9. By Aug. 1, he was no longer employed by the agency. In September, his official replacement, agency insider Donna Murphy, took her post.
At the time, the OCC said it did not comment on “personnel issues.”
Todd Baker, a senior fellow at the Richman Center for Business, Law & Public Policy at Columbia University and managing principal of Broadmoor Consulting, told American Banker he was “fascinated” by Bhardwaj's supposed thought that he would “get away” with lying about his resume for such a position.
“Once he was inside the OCC, his claims that he had held senior executive positions at Fifth Third and Huntington would inevitably be exposed as false by the banks themselves and the examiners covering those companies. What was the point of the whole thing?” Baker said, according to the publication.
OCC alumna and co-founder of financial services advisor Klaros Group Michele Alt said she doesn’t want to blame the regulator for Bhardwaj’s “fraud,” as the OCC was the fraud’s victim.
“But it is astonishing that someone could claim to have held senior executive positions at some of the largest banks in the OCC’s portfolio without anyone at the agency verifying those claims. There was clearly a failure of due diligence in the hiring process,” she said. “As for timing, the OCC may have gotten lucky that the story broke on Black Friday when Congress was out of session and everyone was out shopping. I think it remains to be seen whether this story has legs.”
News of Bhardwaj’s apparent phony resume comes at a time when another regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., faces scrutiny over a culture that allegedly fostered sexual harassment.
The FDIC is facing a third-party review, to be completed by mid-February.