Press Releases

ROOTSTRIKERS RELEASE: Public Interest Groups Urge NY Gov. Cuomo to Name Rohit Chopra as Financial Services Superintendent

For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2015
Contact: Kurt Walters
[email protected]

A coalition of 14 progressive, consumer advocacy, and financial reform groups today called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to name Rohit Chopra, a tough-on-Wall-Street official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as the next New York banking and insurance superintendent.

Benjamin Lawsky, the outgoing superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, has been called “the sheriff of Wall Street” for his willingness to aggressively enforce laws against wrongdoing in the financial sector.

The groups, including Rootstrikers, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Center for Popular Democracy, New Economy Project, CREDO, Democracy for America, Strong Economy for All, Demand Progress, Action for the Common Good, New York State United Teachers, Citizen Action NY, American Family Voices, Dēmos, and New York Communities for Change, emphasized that Chopra, as the top student loan official at the CFPB, has a strong record of uncovering and addressing predatory behavior in the industry.

Chopra has taken on for-profit colleges and negotiated tough settlements for making illegal loans to students. He also exposed financial scams targeted toward servicemembers and veterans, successfully working with the Department of Justice to intercede in the issue, and empowered students by creating a “financial aid shopping sheet” now adopted by 3,000 schools.

Chopra, whose name was first mentioned as a likely candidate for DFS superintendent by Inside Mortgage Finance, has used various tools at his disposal to push for favorable terms for borrowers and hold those who violate the law accountable. This record strongly positions him to continue Lawsky’s leadership of forcefully pursuing illegal activity on Wall Street.

Senator Elizabeth Warren – who initially hired Chopra to the CFPB – recently stated that Chopra would be “phenomenal” as New York banking and insurance superintendent, calling him “smart as a whip, independent, hard-working, and loaded with integrity.”

Lawsky used his position to force the industry to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in additional penalties for breaking the law, going beyond what more tepid federal regulators demanded. He also focused on ensuring law-breaking individuals on Wall Street are held accountable.

Gov. Cuomo is reportedly considering taking a step back from this successful record. According to a recent New York Times article, Gov. Cuomo is weighing several revolving door picks drawn from Wall Street or corporate law firms representing the same companies the New York banking and insurance superintendent regulates – selections that would likely halt the momentum of this key regulatory position. The specific, industry-friendly names floated in the Times signal a potential shift toward a soft-on-Wall-Street direction from Gov. Cuomo and his administration, sharply at odds with the leadership demonstrated by both Lawsky and Chopra.

“New York has been wracked by one corruption scandal after another, as state legislators have been caught rewarding their corporate benefactors,” said Kurt Walters, Campaign Manager at Rootstrikers. “Gov. Cuomo faces a clear choice between selecting another regulator unafraid to take on Wall Street – like Chopra – or putting forward yet another example of a revolving door culture that has plagued New York government during his time as governor.”

“We have seen first-hand just how important it is to have a strong financial services superintendent in New York,” said Sarah Ludwig, Founder and Co-Director of New Economy Project, based in New York City. “It is critical that Governor Cuomo appoint a successor to Benjamin Lawsky who will build on the agency’s emerging reputation as an enlightened regulator. We support the appointment of someone like Rohit Chopra, whose qualifications and proven experience in financial services and regulatory oversight make him a stellar candidate.”

“Everyday Americans are tired of too-big-to-fail on Wall Street and sick of federal regulators who think these banks are too big to prosecute,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action. “If Gov. Cuomo replaces a real ‘cop on the beat’ with a Wall Street lapdog, the whole country will be worse for it,” Zaheed continued. “He will be sending a signal to progressives in New York and across the country that he doesn’t care about financial reform and strong enforcement of the laws already on the books.”