- Last Updated: 12:27 AM, August 9, 2012
- Posted: 12:17 AM, August 8, 2012
Move over, Schneiderman — there’s a new cop on the Wall Street beat.
Benjamin Lawsky, head of the little-known New York Department of Financial Services, is grabbing headlines and stealing the spotlight away from other heavy-hitting watchdogs — like state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The 42-year -old Lawsky, who has served as Gov. Cuomo’s right-hand man for years, often working behind the scenes to bring cases against Wall Street firms, had a coming-out party of sorts on Monday when his DFS agency alleged that UK banking titan Standard Chartered did business with Iranian banks for nearly 10 years — in violation of US law.
Lawsky is threatening to pull the bank’s state charter — putting a fright into its investors and sending its shares cratering yesterday.
It’s the kind of attention and reaction that used to be reserved for the AG.
By flexing his muscles, Lawsky is showing Wall Street there are two powerful sheriffs in town.
The offices of the AG and DFS boss insist that there is no rivalry between the two and they often “collaborate” on nabbing financial bad guys.
“The last few years have taught us that there are not enough cops on the beat policing Wall Street,” a spokeswoman for the AG told The Post.
Comparatively, the AG’s office boasts more than 1,700 staffers and a budget of $215 million, while DFS employs 1,500 but wields a larger budget — $235 million.
As any Wall Street executive who has run afoul of the law will tell you, though, the AG has a powerful weapon few others do — the Martin Act, which it wields against financial crimes.
But Lawsky is proving that even without his favorite Martin his DFS can still get headlines.
DFS was formed 18 months ago by combining the state Insurance and Banking departments and broadening their powers.
It was the brainchild of Gov. Cuomo in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. While it lacks the prosecutorial powers of the AG, it can get companies to sit up and take notice by threatening — as it did with Standard — to revoke their charters.
While DFS was created via legislation, Lawsky’s go-for-the-throat mentality appears organically created.
He pulled few punches on Monday, calling Standard a “rogue” bank.
An avid long-distance runner, Lawsky has been viewed as a sharp legal mind running down ambitious pursuits.
He often spearheaded some of the highest-profile financial cases for Cuomo, including one charging Bank of America with misleading government officials about losses at merger target Merrill Lynch during the credit crisis.