Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s top state banking regulator, shook up the financial world by squeezing a record settlement out of Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) over allegations that it laundered money for Iran. Let’s get this much straight about him, too: He’s no rogue cop. He’s a loyal soldier.
Look at the section on the New York State Department of Financial Services website that lists the agency’s press releases this year, and you will see a pattern. Most of the headlines start with the name of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, not Lawsky, the department superintendent who serves at the governor’s pleasure. Within minutes of Lawsky’s disclosure this week that Standard Chartered had agreed to pay a $340 million penalty, Cuomo released his own statement taking much of the credit for the 10-month-old department’s creation last year.
Lawsky, 42, may be in the limelight as the person who put the Department of Financial Services on the map. But the guy who has his back is Cuomo. In an odd twist, Cuomo, 54, never scored such a clear-cut victory in a high-profile case when he was New York’s attorney general. Ever the grandstander, Cuomo publicly castigated Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s during an investigation by his office in 2008, for instance, only to reach a settlement later in which the discredited rating companies paid no penalties.
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