- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday nominated Adrienne Harris, a former special assistant for economic policy in the Obama White House, to lead the state’s Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).
- The state’s top financial regulator has been without a superintendent since Aug. 24, when Linda Lacewell resigned. Lacewell, who served as chief of staff for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo prior to her stint leading NYDFS, helped develop a public relations strategy for Cuomo as allegations of misconduct mounted, according to an investigation by New York’s attorney general. Cuomo also stepped down Aug. 24, amid allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. Hochul, his successor, said she would replace all Cuomo staffers implicated in the attorney general’s report.
- Harris must be confirmed by the New York state Senate before taking office.
“With Adrienne Harris as our state’s top financial regulator, New Yorkers can rest assured that this administration isn’t simply focused on just protecting consumers, but on advancing an equitable economic recovery that seeks to lift up all citizens, not just the privileged few,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday. “There is no one better suited to help lead this state's economy forward.”
In her White House role from 2015 to 2017, Harris developed and executed strategies for financial reform, and for implementing the Dodd-Frank Act. A member of the National Economic Council, she advanced fintech initiatives and cybersecurity and housing finance reform priorities while advocating for consumer protection.
Since leaving the White House, Harris has served as general counsel and chief business officer at States Title, a title insurance and settlement services company. She now works with Washington-based public relations firm Brunswick Group, where she advises financial institutions, fintechs and venture-capital firms. She is also a professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
"I am honored and humbled by the privilege to work with Governor Hochul to serve the people of New York," Harris said in a statement Tuesday. "Under her leadership, we will work together to ensure we have a robust and fair financial system, and an equitable economy. New Yorkers deserve no less. I look forward to getting to work."
Before her White House stint, Harris worked as a senior adviser to Acting Deputy Treasury Secretary Mary Miller and Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin. There, she sought to advance fintech, find solutions to the student loan crisis, and research the intersection of foreign investment and national security.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, called Harris’ nomination "a very strong appointment.” Maloney in July introduced her Overdraft Protection Act, which would prevent banks from charging a customer more than one overdraft fee in any calendar month, and would limit to six the number of overdraft fees a bank can charge a customer per year.
"In addition to her expertise in government, law, and financial services, Adrienne brings a deep commitment to consumer financial health and well-being, making her uniquely qualified to serve as DFS superintendent,” Financial Health Network CEO Jennifer Tescher said. “I am eager to see what she and Governor Hochul accomplish together.”
NYDFS was established in 2011, through the merger of the New York State Insurance Department and New York State Banking Department. About 1,500 financial institutions with more than $2.6 trillion in assets under management are under the regulator’s purview, along with roughly 1,800 insurers with $4.7 trillion in assets.
Last fall, it became the first state or federal regulator to ask financial institutions to integrate climate change-related financial risks into their business strategies, risk management processes and governance frameworks. It also began offering banks and credit unions credit under the state's Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for financing activities that bolster climate resiliency in low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities.
The agency in July said it would ask financial institutions to share their diversity data as part of an initiative to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the banking and financial services industry.
Under Lacewell, NYDFS created a cybersecurity division and collected more than $1 billion in bank enforcement penalties. That includes a $150 million penalty against Deutsche Bank over compliance failures tied to the German lender’s relationship with convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein.