From the agency of: DFS
The state Department of Financial Services was created in 2011 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo merged two older agencies—the state Banking and Insurance departments—as part of the budget agreement. The new department, which has around 1,400 employees and an operating budget of $250 million, is empowered to oversee a much broader swath of the financial services industry than either of the previous departments. But some say DFS has transcended what even the governor had in mind. Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, formerly the governor’s chief of staff and a special adviser to Cuomo when he was state attorney general, has assumed a decidedly prosecutorial stance from the beginning, even though the agency he oversees lacks the power to indict individuals or convene grand juries. Lawsky has obtained over $6 billion in financial settlements with big, mostly foreign banks for violating New York regulations since 2014. He has also gone after those in leadership roles deemed responsible for the transgressions. As Lawsky remarked at a speech at Columbia Law School in February, “If there is wrongdoing at a corporation, that wrongdoing was committed by people … And, in my opinion, if in any particular instance we cannot find someone, some person, to hold accountable, that just means we have stopped looking.” All of this has earned Lawsky a reputation as Wall Street’s newest top cop, as well as an innovative and visionary advocate for stronger state-based financial oversight, while also solidifying the new agency as a force that can’t be ignored.
In City & State’s DFS user guide, we give our readers a snapshot of the agency’s initiatives, along with a rundown of its key players and insight from Superintendent Lawsky.