June 1, 2015
Reiss on Lawsky Legacy
Law360 quoted me in Lawsky’s Aggressive Tactics Provided Model For Regulators (behind a paywall). It reads, in part,
New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky’s frequent, aggressive and often creative enforcement actions generated billions of dollars for the state and put his agency at the forefront in financial services regulation, and observers expect a similar approach from Lawsky’s successor when he leaves his post next month.
Confirmed to lead the New York Department of Financial Services in May 2011, few expected the new agency, which combined the state’s banking and insurance regulators, to make much of a mark. But after collecting $3.3 billion in penalties and forcing several traders and top executives out of their positions, Lawsky’s agency has proven to be a powerful enforcer.
“His biggest legacy is simply that he stood up a brand new regulator in one of the global financial centers and made it matter almost immediately,” said Matthew L. Schwartz, a partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP and a former federal prosecutor. Lawsky, who announced his departure from the agency on May 20, established a name for himself and for the Department of Financial Services when he jumped ahead of federal banking regulators and prosecutors in announcing a $340 million settlement with British bank Standard Chartered PLC over its alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran and other countries in August 2012.
That a newly formed state regulatory agency would move ahead with a stiff penalty and threaten to wield the most powerful of weapons — the pulling of Standard Chartered’s license to operate in New York state — reportedly rankled his federal counterparts
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“He made clear that consumer protection is integral to the mission of the agency,” Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss said.
Despite Lawsky’s frequent reminders that he works for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — for whom he has also served as chief of staff — and the superintendent’s constant praise for his staff, there is fear among some reformers that the DFS won’t be the same without Lawsky at the helm.
“Lawsky proves that the character of individual regulators can make a crucial difference more than the letter of the law itself,” said Bartlett Naylor of Public Citizen.
“Ideally, he’ll inspire his successor and other regulators that honor awaits the vigilant and opprobrium will fall upon the indolent. More practically, however, the problems of regulatory capture by an enormously influential industry reliant on government favor can prove overwhelming,” Naylor added.
Others are more confident that the agency Lawsky set up will continue its work even after his move to the private sector.
In part, that’s because the penalties the DFS has wracked up have been a boon to New York’s budget.
Cuomo, the state’s former attorney general, has an interest in many of the issues Lawsky acted on, as well.
“I have every reason to expect that Cuomo would want to have a very vigorous enforcer to replace Lawsky,” Reiss said.| Permalink