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Capital Tonight: Hochul’s DFS Nominee Prompts Anger Among Consumer, Good Government Groups

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Gov. Kathy Hochul has nominated Adrienne Harris to be the new superintendent of the Department of Financial Services. If confirmed by the New York State Senate, Harris would succeed Linda Lacewell.

DFS is the state body responsible for regulating all financial services and products in the New York.

Though Adrienne Harris has quite a resume — she was a special assistant to President Obama for economic policy and she currently serves on the faculty at the University of Michigan — a coalition of 25 groups, including Citizen Action and the Western New York Law Center is urging Gov. Hochul to rescind her nomination.

“The nominee, Adrienne Harris, comes from, is very tied to, is very much in alliance with, a part of our financial services system called financial technology or fintech for short,” Sarah Ludwig, founder and co-director of the New Economy Project told Capital Tonight.

What is fintech? 

“It means the usage of technology that is used for providing financial services and products to the consumers. Non-banking financial companies like Finserv MARKETS and banks like Axis Bank, RBL Bank and others can offer products like credit cards, loans, insurance, investment, and more through the power of fintech,” according to Outlook.

One of Harris’ specialties is financial technology.

“People were quite taken aback that [Hochul] chose somebody to nominate who is so steeped in an industry, that people in New York and advocates in New York and former regulators in New York know is very problematic,” Ludwig said. “This industry has really been characterized by on-line lenders who have been trying to come into New York to deregulate.”

According to Ludwig, fintech is known for “wealth extraction.” When asked for an example, Ludwig explained that New York state has some of the strongest laws in the nation against predatory lending.

“The fintech industry has worked very hard to try to get our state Legislature to do away with these laws, so they can make loans that are triple digit interest rate loans,” she said.

Harris has been named to the board of Lending Club, which, according to Ludwig, is one of the companies that has tried to get around New York state’s usury laws.

“She has made variety comments about financial technology and innovation at the same time that she talks about regulators sort of getting in the way of efficiency,” Ludwig said. “And it’s really not responsible to the public.”

An email request to the Hochul administration for comment was not returned.

The coalition against Harris’ nomination also issued a list of requirements for the superintendent’s position. They include:

  • Has a clear vision to serve the public interest, not political interests
  • Is ready to take bold action and regulate the financial services industry to protect New Yorkers
  • Understands that financial justice is fundamental to a just recovery and equitable community development
  • Is driven to advance racial equity and address climate change
  • Prioritizes strong enforcement and supervision